Embracing Green

Two spills
by Xiaomin Chen -- January 16th, 2014

West Virginia 4-methylcyclohexane methanol spill makes me think of an aniline spill in North China’s Changzhi city earlier last year. Intuitively, I began to compare them.

Both spills have huge impact. The Changzhi spill contaminated a water source for two downstream cities, where 3 million people resided. The West Virginia spill contaminated water supply for 300,000 people.

Yet, media from both countries have different focuses. Whereas Chinese media focused on local government’s cover-up in the Changzhi spill, US media pays more attention to regulations. The Changzhi government didn’t reveal the spill until six days after the spill. As a result, the mayor of Changzhi was fired and nine other officials were disciplined. In the West Virginia spill, few journalists questioned whether the spill was revealed right after it was discovered. Instead, they focus on regulation loopholes. According to the Wall Street Journal, the EPA “doesn’t regulate most above-ground chemical storage for many industries.”

Media focuses might suggest priorities of the two nations to address environment issues: China should work on sense of responsibility of its local governments; US on regulations. What about other countries? Are there chemical spills or other water pollution issues? The answer is yes. The two cases are not alone. Every day, water pollution takes place everywhere on the globe. Fertilizers, pesticides, chemical spills and other kinds of pollution, are “estimated to affect the health of 1200 million people.” And every 15 seconds, one child dies from waterborne diseases (Source: Professor Avner Vengosh).

A fish-lover, I began to eat less and less fish since 2011 when I heard a lot of fish has been contaminated by mercury. But I cannot drink less water. This makes me really hate water polluters no matter what excuses they might come up with.

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