Tackling water pollution
Fundamental measures to protect the Nakdong River, a source of drinking water, from contaminants must be put in place as early as possible.
Pollution of the river from various toxic chemicals is an annual occurrence and only temporary measures are ever prepared. This means that the agony for people living nearby never stops.
In July 2006, a contaminant called perchlorate was found in the river, causing a water crisis for residents in the Yeongnam area. In March last year, phenol was dumped into the river by the Gimcheon factory of Kolon Chemical.
After Jan. 12 this year, levels of 1,4-dioxane exceeding safe drinking water standards were found in several places, including near a bridge in Waegwan-eup, Chilgok County, North Gyeongsang Province.
The chemical is used in manufacturing textiles and synthetic leather and is believed to cause cancer.
The concentration of 1,4-dioxane in the river exceeded 50 micrograms per liter, the standard for drinking water set by the World Health Organization. The city of Daegu has reduced tap water production from the river.
Diocane contamination of the Nakdong River emerged in 2004 as well. The companies concerned and the environment ministry agreed that the companies would voluntarily reduce discharge of the substance.
However, as has been proven since, the agreement is ineffective. Therefore, experts maintain that now is the time to establish binding legal measures as are in place in advanced industrial countries.
In April 2004, Japan adopted the WHO advisory standard for dioxane as a limit.
In the United States, the standard varies from state to state, but it is between 50 to 85 micrograms per liter. Companies that violate this standard are punished.
In the long term, to protect the Nakdong River from pollution, we should work hard to secure more water resources. If we have abundant water resources, the risk of water pollution diminishes. This works on the principle that if the same amount of toxic material comes in but the water volume is greater, the concentration of the substance decreases.
In this respect, the government’s decision to include building dams and water reservoirs in its maintenance project for four major rivers was right.