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Probe unearths no pollution

(China Daily)

08:12, February 19, 2013

A nearly weeklong government investigation into claims that Shandong province enterprises pump polluted water into the ground has still not uncovered any solid evidence that this happened, officials from local environmental departments said.

Allegations appeared on Sina Weibo on Feb 11 claiming that chemical plants and paper mills in Weifang, in East China's Shandong province, have been pumping wastewater 1,000 meters under the ground through high-pressure wells, polluting a large area of groundwater.

The posts attracted public concern and media attention soon after they were forwarded by Deng Fei, a member of the Phoenix Weekly editorial board, who has more than 2 million online followers.

The Weifang environmental protection bureau announced a hotline with a 100,000 yuan ($16,000) reward on Sunday to the first whistleblower who can prove the now widely circulated allegation.

"No one has called yet," Zhao Lei from the information office with the Weifang government told China Daily. He said he doubted anyone will call because what was described in the posts "is not happening here".

The official investigation began on Feb 13. A day later, an investigation team from the provincial environmental department was sent to Weifang and is still working there.

About 320 people checked 715 plants in two days, finding no clues or evidence that enterprises are pumping polluted water into the ground, according to the Weifang government's announcement.

Netizens have been joking about the startling speed and efficiency of the investigation, questioning its credibility.

But Zhao said the government has kept records of the inspectors, the enterprises checked and the results.

"We haven't processed the records yet," Zhao said. "It will be a lot of work since there are more than 700 enterprises involved."

Deng, who forwarded the posts online, also expressed his concern about the investigation's credibility.

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