Ying Jianguo was detained on Friday and now faces charges after lead emissions from the Taizhou Suqi Storage Battery Co poisoned around 170 villagers.
Out of the 170, 35 children were also affected. According to Xinhua News, three of the poisoned had over 600 micrograms of lead per litre of blood, three times above the limit considered safe for humans.
Although exposure to high levels of lead can damage the digestive, nervous, and reproductive systems, none of them were taken to hospital.
Jianguo is joined in the broil by three government officials who have been suspended for failing to identify the leak and for their lack of supervision. This includes the deputy chief of the district’s environmental protection officer.
“An inspection of the battery plant showed that lead readings in gas and water discharged from the plant exceeded the legal limit, which also resulted in excessive lead in the earth nearby,” said Jiang Xincai, director of the Luqiao branch of Taizhou Environment Protection Bureau said in a statement.
The Bureau has released advice telling villagers not to eat food grown in the area. This is because of fears that water from the factory, which is situated 500 meters away from the village, could have contaminated the soil. Until the authorities can work out how to get rid of the lead, the factory will remain closed.
Back in January, says Xinhua, more than 200 children in another eastern province were poisoned by lead from battery plants located too close to houses. And the problem has been going for a good few years now. In 2009 protesters stormed a smelting factory, which was thought to be leaking lead poisoning and affected up to 600 children.