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 December 18, 2013
8 deaths linked to garbage plants

 Wuhan has been exposed to hundreds of tons of carcinogenic chemicals 900 times as toxic as arsenic each year since five garbage incineration power plants were built illegally in the central Chinese city.

In a community just dozens of meters from one plant, eight of its 1,500 residents have died since the beginning of the year, China Central Television reported last night. All the deaths were linked to cancer. The plant in Wuhan's Hanyang District was 3 kilometers from a commercial hub and just 1.5 kilometers from the Hanjiang River, a main tributary of the Yangtze.

Work began on the Guodingshan plant in late 2006 and it began operating at the end of last year despite tens of thousands of people living nearby.

China's environmental protection law prohibits garbage incineration plants from being less than 350 meters from residences, but some apartment buildings were just dozens of meters away from the Guodingshan plant.

It dealt with 1,500 tons of garbage a day while the Hankoubei plant in Wuhan's Huangpi District handled more than 2,000 tons, the most of all five. The residential community where the eight people died was built in 2008 and none of its residents had been told about the Guodingshan plant, CCTV reported.

According to Wuhan's environmental protection bureau, the five plants generate 600 tons of dust a day containing dioxins --- a group of compounds 900 times as toxic as arsenic.

People nearby have been complaining of strong smells which forced them to keep windows and doors closed. But many still suffer sore throats and skin rashes, CCTV said.

The Guodingshan plant was listed as one of the 72 most heavily polluted enterprises nationwide by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in October.

The Wuhan environmental protection bureau told CCTV the city had paid Hanyang District 1.6 billion yuan (US$264 million) to relocate people near the Guodingshan plant. However, no one knew where the money had gone, CCTV said.

An official with the Wuhan bureau told CCTV that the central government had launched an investigation.