Serious concern over pollution at culling sites

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Serious concern over pollution at culling sites

Amid growing, serious concern over water and soil contamination at the burial sites of animals culled in the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, the government and the ruling party yesterday decided to conduct environmental surveys at all sites nationwide.

The Lee Myung-bak administration and the Grand National Party convened a meeting to discuss the serious environmental concerns. The Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Public Administration and Security will be in charge of the nationwide surveys, said Representative Kim Young-woo.

A quick reaction department will be created under the military’s chemical, biological and radiological warfare unit to step up the efforts to contain the problems related to the outbreak of FMD as well as avian influenza. The team will work with civilian and government disease control task forces.

“We are surveying 4,200 burial sites around the nation, and 45 are already found to have problems,” said Representative Kang Suk-ho. “The current manuals for culling and burial are destined to create problems, so we discussed an alternative of high temperature sterilization.”

While shelving a plan to create a supplementary budget to provide compensation to farmers, the government will use its existing budget and reserve fund. The money will be spent as soon as possible, the ruling party and the government decided.

The tariff on pork and powdered milk will temporarily be removed because shortages have prompted price hikes, Kim Moo-sung, GNP floor leader, said yesterday morning

Since the first FMD outbreak was reported in November, the highly contagious virus has swept all regions nationwide except Jeolla provinces and Jeju Island. The government has culled more than 3.16 million farm animals as of Monday.

As the weather warmed up, reports increased of contaminated water. Many burial sites were also located near drinking water sources, escalating concern. An alliance of the nation’s major environmental groups issued a statement on Jan. 21, condemning the government’s handling of the situation.

In the statement, they warned against a secondary disaster from the government’s decision of massive culling, stressing that the policy was not suitable for the country, with its small territory and dense population.

They urged the government to keep monitoring water and oil contamination from the burial sites and inform the public to prevent more serious consequences.

The Chosun Ilbo reported yesterday - quoting a December report by the Korea Environment Corporation - that 35 percent of the sites where animals were culled due to FMD and avian influenza from 2004 till last year were shown to have leaks of contaminated water.

Following the report, the conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party issued a statement yesterday condemning the government for having turned a blind eye to the environmental disaster. “Shockingly, the report didn’t even include the 4,414 places where burials took place from the latest outbreaks,” said LFP spokeswoman Park Sun-young, who called the situation a “catastrophe.”

The Ministry of Environment issued a statement yesterday, arguing that the story was exaggerated. It said the December survey was done at 23 sample places out of the 1,200 sites, and the leaks were found to have no influence on nearby ground water resources.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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