Abominable dereliction of duty

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Abominable dereliction of duty

A totally unfathomable thing happened at a local government. Namyangju City turned out to have dumped a toxic amount of sewage at Paldang Lake - a major source of tap water for citizens in Seoul and Gyeonggi - for 15 years. If the Ministry of Environment had not begun a probe into the devastating occurrence of algal blooms in rivers across the country, the shameful behavior could have gone on for another 15 years.

The methods the city used to discharge dirty water into the lake are shocking. As it turned out, it released as much as 10,000 tons of filthy wastewater into a tributary of the Han River after installing a clandestine outlet in what constitutes a critical dereliction of duty as a city government. The Environmental Ministry argues that the city’s aberrant practice has further aggravated the hazardous algal blooms on Paldang Lake.

To make matters worse, the Hwado sewage disposal plant in the city received a third-place award for excellence in its filtering system among 815 disposal plants across the country in a national evaluation in 2008. The Hwado Blue Water Center, which uses the water from the Hwado disposal plant, is also an eco-friendly facility which Namyangju City has boasted of - to the extent that the Piano Cascade, an artificial waterfall which relies on the water from the sewage disposal plant, has become a destination for visitors. The number of visitors now numbers 190,000 annually. The city has also been proud of its ability to dispose of sewage after having been selected as a recipient of 12.2 billion won ($10.8 million) in government money as a leader in developing energy-efficient technology in sewage disposal plants.

The latest mishap destroys everything about the city’s reputation. City officials say they couldn’t help engaging in the practice as the Ministry of Environment didn’t provide sufficient money for enhancing their sewage disposal capacity. That sounds like a ridiculous excuse. The city should have exerted more efforts to beef up its sewage disposal system rather than wasting money in publicizing the facility while building a secret outlet to discharge dirty water into the lake through the back door.

The Environmental Ministry should also take responsibility for rewarding the city government for its “exquisite” system despite the utterly deceitful practice. An act that contaminates the source of water for 25 million people in the capital area cannot be pardoned for any reason.
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