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China: Around The Nation

Factory owner and staff arrested for making bricks for homes with toxic waste

Suspects say they ran out of clay and decided to use contaminated dirt bought on the cheap

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 March, 2017, 5:37pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 March, 2017, 5:37pm

Three suspects in Wuhe county, Anhui were arrested for using toxic industrial waste to produce bricks for housing, the paper.cn reports.

The suspects were the owner and staff of a medium-sized brick factory, where provincial environmental inspectors found late last month several hundred tonnes of chemical waste pilling up in its dirt storage yard.

Laboratory analysis showed that this dirt-like material contained harmful chemicals like waste oil and paint, as well as high levels of heavy metals including cadmium and nickel.

The suspects said their brick factory had been affected by a local shortage of clay. But in Lishui city, Zhejiang some factories were selling at very low prices or even giving away large amounts of dirt contaminated by industrial pollutants.

Transported across the province by cargo trucks, the waste dirt was quietly dumped in the brick plant’s open field, which is next to a fish pond and rice paddies.

Local environmental authorities said there was so much of the hazardous waste on the site that they could not give a precise estimate for its total weight. With the spring rainy season coming soon, the government is under pressure to move the waste to a safer place quickly.

A joint investigation with environmental inspectors in Zhejiang had been launched to trace the sources of the polluted dirt.

It is not known how many contaminated bricks the factory sold to construction sites. Health experts warned that living in buildings made with polluted materials can lead to discomfort or illness.