Hid­ing facts of chem­i­cal leak ‘ter­ri­ble’

Work­ers told to fal­sify amount of toxic sub­stances in­volved

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 4 China - By HU MEIDONG in Quanzhou, Fu­jian and CAO YIN in Bei­jing

A com­pany re­spon­si­ble for a chem­i­cal leak in Quanzhou, Fu­jian prov­ince, was ac­cused of cov­er­ing up facts to es­cape pun­ish­ment after the in­ci­dent early this month, and seven peo­ple have been de­tained, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment said on Sun­day.

The in­ci­dent ac­tu­ally in­volved a leak of 69.1 met­ric tons of petro­chem­i­cals, not the 6.97 tons re­ported ear­lier by Fu­jian Dong­gang Petro­chem­i­cal In­dus­try, Wang Yongli, mayor of Quanzhou, said at a news con­fer­ence on Sun­day.

He added that the com­pany’s at­tempt to hide the ac­tual vol­ume of the leak and fal­sify ev­i­dence was “ter­ri­ble”.

At 1:13 am on Nov 4, a hose from an oil tanker owned by the com­pany rup­tured while of­fload­ing toxic petro­chem­i­cals at a wharf in Quanzhou’s Quan­gang district.

Aliphatic hy­dro­car­bons are oily, pun­gent chem­i­cal com­pounds typ­i­cally de­rived from the oil re­fin­ing process. The tox­i­c­ity is sim­i­lar to gaso­line and can cause ir­ri­ta­tion if ex­posed to hu­man skin, eyes or res­pi­ra­tory tracts.

“After the in­ci­dent, mi­dlevel and higher em­ploy­ees of the com­pany were told dur­ing a meet­ing to keep the real amount of the leak se­cret to es­cape crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment,” Wang said.

The en­ter­prise’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, sur­named Huang, called an­other meet­ing to ask em­ploy­ees in­volved to say “6.97 tons of chem­i­cals leaked”, after Quanzhou dis­patched an in­ves­tiga­tive team to the com­pany.

“Through the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we also found there had been about 32.4 tons of petro­chem­i­cals in the hose be­fore the in­ci­dent, and there was an­other 29.7 tons of C9 that were not reg­is­tered by the com­pany,” the mayor said.

Sixty-nine res­i­dents were hos­pi­tal­ized after the leak, the gov­ern­ment said, adding that all of them are now in good con­di­tion.

The com­pany was ac­cused of se­ri­ously breach­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions, and a gov­ern­ment de­part­ment was ac­cused of neg­li­gence.

Seven peo­ple, in­clud­ing Huang, have been crim­i­nally de­tained on sus­pi­cion of neg­li­gence that re­sulted in ma­jor con­se­quences.

Some district of­fi­cials in­volved in the in­ci­dent have also been dis­ci­plined. Chen Xiangcheng was re­moved from his post as deputy head of Quan­gang, while Zhu Huiyang, direc­tor of the district’s trans­porta­tion bu­reau, and Liu Jiankang, from the district’s safety su­per­vi­sion bu­reau, were sus­pended.

Con­tact the writ­ers at [email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

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