Guangxi's regional government has disciplined a vice-mayor of Hechi and eight other officials responsible for the cadmium contamination of Longjiang, including two junior officers from a district environmental protection bureau who may face prosecution for dereliction of duty.
The deputy director of Guangxi's supervision department, Lei Yongda, said yesterday an investigation into possible corruption or other misconduct linked to the spill was under way, Xinhua reported.
Lei said a probe had found that the nine officials had either not exercised sufficient oversight or had been derelict in performing their duties.
Wu Haique, the head of the city's environmental protection bureau, was removed from his post at a meeting of the Hechi People's Congress Standing Committee.
Four officials from the city and Jinjiangcheng district environmental protection bureaus, as well as two from district business bureaus, were also dismissed.
Two other officials, Hechi vice-mayor Li Wengang and Jinchengjiang district deputy party secretary Wei Yongfu, were given demerits.
Earlier, nine business executives were detained in connection with the spill and all seven heavy metal production plants located upstream have suspended operations.
The spill, feared to be the worst heavy metal pollution in decades, is believed to have been caused by the illegal of dumping of about 20 tonnes of life-threatening cadmium into the Longjiang, a tributary of the Pearl River, by two smelters in Hechi.
Hechi is famed for its spectacular economic take-off in recent years, which was heavily reliant on the metal refining industry.
Known as the country's capital of non-ferrous metals, the city boasts the largest tin reserves and is also rich in zinc, lead and indium.
But Hechi's reliance on the energy-intensive and heavily polluting metal refining industry has wreaked havoc on its spectacular, Guilin-style environment, turning rivers black and lush mountains barren.
Until recently, little was done about tackling environmental problems, despite repeated promises by the local authorities, because of their obsession with rapid development.