Two officials were penalized and the head of the plant was detained Saturday for chemical plant pollution in Liuyang county of Changsha city, capital of central China's Hunan Province, said a spokesman from the municipal government.
On July 30, about one thousand villagers took to the streets in Zhentou Township, central China's Hunan Province, protesting detention of six villagers the previous day during demonstrations against pollution caused by the chemical plant.
The legal representative of the plant was detained and the chief and one deputy chief of Liuyang Environment Protection Department were suspended of their posts for further investigation.
The local authorities and police declined to give the names of the penalized.
The villagers have been protesting over the pollution since the deaths of two people, with excessive cadmium level found in their bodies, more than two months ago.
On July 30, villagers gathered at the local government building and police station, asking for free health check-ups, free medical treatment and compensation for despoiled crops and land.
A source from the Hunan Provincial Environmental Protection Department said the plant,in Shuangqiao Village of the township, became operational in April 2004.
From the onset, it was riddled by problems including poor environmental management, heaping of solid waste and a lack of rainwater collection devices.
Local villagers said the plant was harming the local environment with excessive concentrations of the toxic heavy metals, cadmium and indium, which in turn endangered the safety of drinking water in the vicinity.
The environmental protection department ordered the plant to halt production in March this year.
Government departments in Changsha and Liuyang have set up a joint group responsible for carrying out surveys into the chemical plant's negative impact on the environment and people's health.
Villagers whose urinary tests showed excessive cadmium levels have received medical treatment.