Controversial incinerators are licensed, Wuhan says

Updated: 2015-01-19 13:46

By Liu Kun in Wuhan and Xu Wei in Beijing(China Daily USA)

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Authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province, have denied reports that two incineration plants in the city are operating without valid licenses, in the face of mounting complaints from local residents over air pollution.

Beijing News reported on Wednesday that the two incineration plants in Hanyang district are unlicensed and in close proximity to a neighborhood with a population of more than 30,000 people, two kindergartens and a primary school.

However, an official with the Wuhan Environmental Protection Bureau, who would only provide his surname of Wang, said that both plants had passed environmental impact assessments.

"The two plants have both passed the tests from authorities and are operating legally," he said.

The plants have long been a subject of complaints from local residents.

The acrid smell of burning waste fills the nearby neighborhood, which is only 400 meters from the plants. There were more than 25 cancer patients reported in the community in the past two years, although it is unclear whether the diseases are related to the plants.

One plant, run by Borui Energy Environmental Protection in Wuhan, was ordered to halt operations in December 2013, after local authorities failed to demolish all the residential buildings in the required buffer areas, according to documents online at the Wuhan environmental authority. It has since resumed operation.

The plant also received a warning from the Ministry of Environmental Protection in October 2013 for transferring ash to unauthorized units for handling.

According to national standards on the incineration of everyday and medical waste, incinerators cannot be located in densely populated residential areas. Such plants must be located with a buffer zone of at least 300 meters from residential communities, according to the regulation.

"That is a minimum requirement. It does not mean that incinerators located so close to residential communities are safe enough not to cause any harm," said Zhao Zhangyuan, a senior researcher with the Chinese Academy of Environmental Sciences.

Even an incinerator with the most advanced technology could not guarantee zero pollution within such a distance, he said.

The city of Wuhan is under heavy pressure for garbage disposal, with more than 7,000 metric tons of waste produced on a daily basis, according to local media. The amount of waste is also increasing at a yearly rate of 4 percent.

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 Controversial incinerators are licensed, Wuhan says

Luo Jiayi, 4, receives treatment at his home near two incineration plants in Wuhan. His father said the boy has had frequent fevers since 2011, and suffers serious asthma. Doctors said his illness is related to environmental pollution. Chen Jie / China Daily

(China Daily USA 01/19/2015 page4)