Local governments were accomplices in two environmental scandals that harmed at least 250 children and affected a drinking water source used by more than 80,000 residents, China's top environmental official said. Pan Yue , deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa), said that on the surface, the offenders appeared to be hazardous metal processing and chemical factories driven by the blind pursuit of profit, China News Service reported. But Mr Pan said local officials made the poisoning possible. 'If you track down the fundamental cause, it boils down to the local governments. Their officials should take the main responsibility,' he said. Sepa found that in both cases local governments went out of their way to help the polluters. In Hunan , the two chemical plants accused of spilling the cancer-causing chemical arsenide into the Xinqiang River were singled out by the local Linxiang municipal government as 'key protected firms'. Hunan environmental authorities carrying out routine checks last Friday found arsenide levels in the waterway were 10 times higher than normal. In the other incident, in northwestern Gansu province , at least 338 people, mostly children under the age of 14, were admitted to hospital with severe lead poisoning believed to be caused by airborne waste from a nearby smelting plant. Mr Pan said the plant's management obtained an operating licence with the connivance of the local government.