Kunming authorities vowed to launch an inquiry into water pollution after an environment official’s endorsement of a “milk river” came under fire.
“We acknowledge our faults. [The water pollution] was due to waste water discharge. We will address the problems and amend our conduct,” said Dongchuan district head Lu Ping, referring to a stream in his jurisdiction in Yunnan province.
Lu also acknowledged the stream was polluted by waste water discharged from mineral processing factories and promised to crack down on the enterprises responsible.
The water quality of the stream came to light after photographs were published online and it was dubbed “milk river” due to its white colour.
Lu’s apology on Wednesday followed contradictory claims made by Dongchuan environmental bureau chief Wang Jieyun last Tuesday.
Wang insisted the water in the stream was safe to drink and for irrigating crops.
But Wang’s claims backfired when an environmental protection expert found the heavy metal content of the stream was 50 times higher than claimed by the environmental bureau, local media reported.
A district agriculture official also questioned Wang’s conclusion, saying the “environmental bureau is both law enforcer and interested party.”
Local residents were also sceptical, according to media reports. Villagers said the river water had not been fit to drink for a long time and only drank bottle water. They had also built home-made clarifier ponds to clean the water from the stream before using it on crops, Xinhua reported.
Lu said authorities would pay more attention to the issue and would announce a comprehensive strategy to treat pollution based on studies around April 20.