An Open Letter to Veolia Environment S.A. regarding tap water pollution in Lanzhou.

To Veolia Environment
Mr. Antoine Frérot,Chief Executive Officer of Veolia Environnement
Veolia Environmental Services Hong Kong Ltd
Mr Juan Chui  [email protected]

An Open Letter to Veolia Environment S.A. regarding tap water pollution in Lanzhou.
June 3, 2014

On 10th April, a serious tap water pollution incident occurred in the northwestern Chinese city of Lanzhou and an unexpected high level of benzene continent was found. The test result released by Lanzhou Veolia Water Company showed that the level of benzene in the tap water was 200 mg/L, 20 times higher than national safety limits of 10 mg/L.

According to the news report, the company first discovered the excessive benzene poisoned level at 3pm on 10th April, but the local government did not publicize the warning notices until 4pm the day after. This is suspected of being a delayed announcement. In addition, an expert pointed out that the ferro concrete used to make the number four water pipe (polluted in this incident) is too old to use after sixty years. Also, some citizens in Lanzhou have complained that Veolia Water Company has not renewed the water supply system since it got the water supply franchise from the government.

Lanzhou Veolia Water Company is the only water supply company in the city. It is a joint venture company owned by Lanzhou Water Group and French Veolia. The French capital accounts for 45% of the shares. The French capital is also registered as an investment company in Hong Kong, called Veolia Water (Yellow River) Investment Co., Ltd, with the cooperation of China Ping An Insurance. For now, Lanzhou Veolia Water Company is responsible for the water supply in four districts, covering a total of 2.4 million people. At the same time, Veolia Water has contracts with municipalities in China covering 43 million people. That means that the company is responsible for the basic right of access to water for this number of people.

As there are more than 40 million people relying on the clean water supply from Veolia water, water reliability is very important to the public. However, the company’s performance has been very worrying in recent years. The following are water pollution incidents related to Veolia in China:

  • In September 2012, China National Environmental Monitoring Centre found that the concentration of dioxin emission exhausted from Veolia’s incinerator was 2.0ng/m, which is 3 times higher than the standard level. The emission of mercury and its compounds, arsenic, and nickel and its compounds were also seriously overweight.
  • In January 2013, Shanghai Pudong Veolia Water Co. Ltd., violated management of waste pollution prevention measures and was fined by the government.
  • In February 2013, Shanghai Pudong Veolia Water Co. Ltd., was charged again by the government for discharging sewage, which exceed the standard and the deadline of the regulation for treatment of pollutions.
  • In May 2013, Veolia Water’s sewage treatment plant in Haikou was found to contain excessive levels of fecal coliform. The company was fined by the environmental protection department in 2014.
  • In March 2014, Maidao sewage treatment plant belonging to Qingdao Veolia Water Co. Ltd. was found to contain excessive levels of fecal coliform in an investigation.

The right to water and sanitation are basic human rights in the EU. As a French company, Veolia Water in China continues to create pollution-related incidents and has even been fined by the local government. This shows that the services related to water provided by the company are not up-to-standard or are far from satisfactory.  Veolia Water in China not only performs irresponsibly but also violates the basic rights of the Chinese residents.

Therefore, as an environmental NGO, concerned about the safety of China’s water supply we demand:
1. Lanzhou Veolia Group should immediately improve water supply facilities and upgrade the aging water pipes with the cooperation of the local government.
2. Lanzhou Veolia Group should launch an investigation and be accountable to the public.
3. Veolia Water Group in China must monitor all of its China facilities through an in-depth investigation and ensure its safety operation. It should establish a transparent and accountable information system for the public.

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