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In China, the environmental and human costs of economic growth often become an afterthought for authorities. That is until the problems become impossible to ignore. In southern Yunnan Province, authorities publicly admitted that tons of dangerous chromium waste had been illegally dumped. That's after netizens brought the issue to light over the weekend.
In China's southern Yunnan Province, five tons of toxic chemical waste was illegally dumped. It happened in June, but local authorities only confirmed it this week, after netizens raised concerns online.
The chemical that was dumped is hexavalent chromium. It can easily pollute air and water sources and can cause cancer. The illegal dumping became a hot topic online last week, after netizens claimed five tons of chromium was released into the Napan River in Qujing City.
On Monday, Qujing authorities admitted a chemical plant had illegally disposed of the chromium. Authorities say two truck drivers had dumped the chemical in bushes along local roads to save on transportation costs. The two men have now been arrested.
The chemical waste polluted soil and water—killing some livestock. Qujing authorities still claim drinking water is safe for humans. But there are unconfirmed reports online that more than a dozen local residents have died from chromium pollution.
Residents and local media have asked why authorities did not report the illegal dumping earlier.
The news has prompted further investigation into chromium pollution in Yunnan Province. State-run media reports as much as ten thousand tons of the chemical waste is currently stored in open and exposed areas. Some have been there for more than two decades.