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Homework #2 (Part A)

With a population of over 1 billion, China is the most populous country. It also has one of the fastest growing economies in terms of GDP. China has favored economic development over environmental protection. The countrys lack of enforcement of environmental regulations has resulted in the severe deterioration of the environment. On September 3rd, 2013, 110 tons of dead fish were cleared from a 25 mile section of the Fuhe River in the Hubei Province of China. Environmental officials believe the problem is due to high levels of ammonia released from a local chemical plant and paper mill mixed with domestic sewage and untreated waste. The concentration of ammonia measured from the plant effluent far exceeded the national standard. The company being held responsible is Hubei Shuanghuan Science and Technology. The company manufactures various chemicals including soda ash, ammonium chloride and industrial salt. This fish kill occurred a few months after a large number of pig carcasses were found floating in the river. The pig carcasses were dumped in the river by local residents after many of them died. [1] Ammonia is a common pollutant of surface waters. It is naturally produced by animals and plants by decomposition as part of the nitrogen cycle. Ammonia dissolves in water to form a portion of NH4+ and a portion of unionized NH3. Ammonia in unionized (neutral) state is toxic to fish. The amount of unionized ammonia present increases with increasing pH and temperature. The amount of ammonia-nitrogen allowed by the EPA depends on the pH, the temperature and the species present. Fish are more sensitive to increased levels of ammonia than invertebrates. The total concentration of naturally occurring ammonia in surface waters is less than 12 mg/L. In groundwater, the concentration of ammonia should be less than 0.02 mg/L. Discharge of

ammonia from untreated municipal wastewater plants, as a result of biological treatment, is on average 24 mg/L. The amount of ammonia measured in the Fuhe River after the fish kill was determined to 196 mg/L. This is well above the amount allowed. The area near the Fuhe River was experiencing a draught that caused the water level in the river to drop. This decreased the capacity of the water to take in pollutants. [2] In response to the fish kill, officials have suspended plant operations and trading of the companys stock. The company was also ordered to clean up the mess. Local residents are concerned about the quality of drinking water. The local community has over 150 fishing boats and is expected to lose thousands of dollars per day. The social and economic consequences of pollution in China are high. The introduction of pollutants into the environment can upset the natural balance between organisms. Although China has laws to protect water quality, 90% of sections of rivers near urban areas are severely polluted. Over 300 million people in China have no access to safe drinking water. The amount of ammonia present in wastewater discharge after biological treatment can be decreased by nitrification. More enforcement of regulations is needed to decrease pollution in China. The country is making strides to decrease pollution through investing in the use of renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectric power and wind.



Jethro Mullen. (2013). CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/05/world/asia/china-riverdead-fish/index.html


Chen Gang. (2010). Politics of Chinas Environmental Protection: Problems and Progress. World Scientific, pp28-42.