Poultry graves threaten groundwater
Farmers are set to get better access to clean drinking water amid fears that groundwater might be contaminated by leachate, liquid that drains from landfills containing the carcasses of poultry culled during an outbreak of avian influenza in 2003, the environment and agriculture ministries announced yesterday.
The government has already set up tap water pipelines within a three-kilometer (1.86-mile) radius of 343 villages affected by avian influenza across the country. The project has cost 68.2 billion won ($56.53 million) so far. It said it intends to finish setting up taps in other areas by next month.
However, residents in the affected villages will still have to install a pipeline at a cost of 3 million won, connecting their houses to the main freshwater pipe.
The government plans to offer farmers low-interest loans to help cover the costs.
Eight out of 15 agricultural areas across the country tested by the Environment Ministry since June 2008 are thought to have been contaminated by leachate, according to officials. The tests also revealed an excessive amount of colon bacillus and other germs in groundwater flows through 14 of the 15 sites investigated.
Safety standards state there should be less than 100 germs per 100 milliliters of groundwater, but some groundwater had 190,000 germs per 100 milliliters.
Since avian flu hit Korea in 2003, poultry at 722 sites across the country were slaughtered and buried in accordance with laws for preventing the spread of contagious diseases among livestock.
Burial sites had to be five meters (16.4 feet) deep, filled with quicklime and covered with vinyl sheeting.
But experts are concerned.
“There might be leakage of the landfill leachate if the vinyl buried in the ground tears,” said Choi Suing-il, a professor of environmental engineering at Korea University. “Because leachate will always form in these conditions, it needs to be extracted after a certain period of time.”
In response to the expert’s concerns, the ministry said it will extract leachate from livestock landfills. “The ministry will strengthen measures for burying livestock and will seek ways to change the practice of burying livestock by building incinerators,” said Lee Sang-soo, an officer at the Agriculture Ministry’s livestock policy bureau.
By Kang Chan-su, Kim Mi-ju [firstname.lastname@example.org]