The Huangpu River, a source of drinking water to Shanghai's 23 million residents, should basically be called rotting swine soup. Some 3,000 more decomposing pigs have been found in the river near Shanghai since Monday, bringing the number to about 6,000 dead hogs, but authorities claim that water is just fine.
"If the water is contaminated, we will put more disinfectants and activated carbon to purify the water," Qian Huizhong, Deputy Director of Xiaokunshan Water Plant in Shanghai was quoted as saying in Xinhua, China's state-run news agency. Officials also said "no pollution has been found" in Shanghai's water quality. Officials said "the city is working to ensure its water quality, including removing pigs while they are further upstream, setting up aquatic plant barriers and increasing the frequency of quality checks," reports Shanghai Daily. The local government released a statement explaining that "the water quality of the upper reaches of the Huangpu river is generally stable, basically similar to the same period last year."
So on the bright side, the water quality is basically the same as last year. And on the not-so-bright side, exactly how terrible was the water quality in the Huangpu if 6,000 dead pigs don't move the needle? On Monday it was reported that the dead pigs were marinating in other refuse, like medical waste and a sex doll. According to CNN's water expert, those Chinese water authorities might be minimizing the toll of those decomposing pigs are having on Shanghai's water system:
If the water treatment process is very effective and can handle the sudden glut of contaminants, it's possible to minimize the impact, said Julian Fyfe, a senior research consultant specializing in water quality at the University of Technology Sydney.
But he added: "Most treatment plants would not be designed to accommodate that level of shock loading. It's such an unsual event." [...] "If they are chlorinating heavily, which a lot of places may do, especially if they've got a very polluted water body to start with, then the effects could potentially be small," Fyfe said.
Even if Shanghai residents don't believe what the authorities are feeding them about the water, they don't really have a choice but to accept it. In China's eastern province of Zheijhang, environmentalist Chen Yuqian dared authorities to swim in a local, very-polluted river to make a point about how dirty it was. Late last month, Chen told Radio Free Asia that "40 unidentified people had showed up at his home and smashed it up, beating him up in the process."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.