Sinopec closes three petroleum plants after pollution exposed on state TV
Sinopec shuts down production at three plants in Guangdong after company is shown being dressed down over emission violations
Petrochemical giant Sinopec has suspended production at three subsidiaries in Guangdong after a state television exposé showed the company being scolded in an internal meeting over severe environmental pollution breaches.
In rare coverage by state television, CCTV broadcast footage yesterday showing inspectors from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Guangdong's provincial environmental protection bureau berating the company for repeated regulatory violations.
Zhou Quan , director of the bureau's inspection office, pounded a table and shouted: "This is a blatant [violation]. And no one supervised [the companies] and asked them to correct [their wrongdoings] even though it was crystal clear that their pollution emissions were beyond national standards.
"Even so, [the companies] are still bullying local governments all the time, claiming [their operation] is important for the national economy and people's livelihood. Then what about the livelihood of local people?"
CCTV reported that Zhanjiang Dongxing Refinery, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed China Petroleum & Chemical - Sinopec - dumped toxic sewage in rainwater drains without proper treatment. The plant was also found to have resumed operation without approval after being ordered to shut down in May for failing to relocate residents.
Another subsidiary, Sinopec Guangzhou Petrochemical, illegally stored a large amount of liquid in two tanks designed for emergency use only, posing high environmental risks.
And Xinzhongmei Chemical Industrial, a joint venture in Zhanjiang partially controlled by Sinopec, tried to dilute its waste with tap water before dumping it. CCTV reported that Mo Zhi , the company's general manager, described the pungent odour from drainage pipes as "cooking smells" in an attempt to cover up the illegal handling of the waste.
Sinopec said it had ordered the three plants to suspend production and sent a team to investigate. "[We will] severely deal with those who are responsible and the subsidiary management according to the results of the investigation," the company said.
Greenpeace China campaigner Ma Tianjie said illegal dumping through drains was normal practice on the mainland for many factories.
"But it is extremely irresponsible for petrochemical companies to do so because their waste is highly toxic," he said.
In recent years, plans for petrochemical projects have met with strong opposition from people living nearby, leading to massive demonstrations in a number of mainland cities, including Dalian in Liaoning and Xiamen in Fujian .
Environmentalists said the CCTV exposé revealed an inconvenient truth, with powerful state-owned enterprises frequently escaping supervision because the local environmental watchdogs were too lax.
CCTV showed Zhang Zhimin , from the environment ministry, who headed the inspection team, asking: "Why, in their previous visits, did local environmental authorities fail to find out the problems and risks in the three plants?"