Environmental officials detained for altering air data in Northwest China

Source:China Business View - Global Times Published: 2016/10/25 20:02:27

Three environmental officials in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province were detained for altering air monitoring results by covering their air samplers with cotton yarn, local media reported.

He Limin -- chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau in the Chang'an district of Xi'an, Shaanxi's capital city -- and two other officials in charge of an air sampler station were arrested by local police, the local China Business View reported. 

One bureau official, who declined to be named, told the Global Times on Tuesday that a new bureau chief has replaced He, but refused to go into more detail. 

According to the China Business View report, an official from the Xi'an Environmental Protection Bureau had reported the fraudulent statistics to officials on Friday.

The report said that Li Sen, who was the head of the monitoring station, had made a copy of the key and held onto the computer password that provided access to the station while it was being relocated to the Xi'an University of Posts and Telecommunications in February.

Using this unauthorized access, the employees were able to enter the station and block the air samplers, which influenced the sampling system and caused data exceptions. Moreover, it also disrupted the normal functioning of the national air quality monitoring system, the China Business View said.  

The data exception alerted the National Environmental Monitoring Center, who later sent inspectors to examine the station. The inspectors discovered that video surveillance of the station for march had been deleted, according to the report. 

An insider told the Xi'an-based newspaper that officials in charge of environmental protection blocked the samplers to make the data "look better" and avoid penalties for high pollution in their area of responsibility. In China, environmental protection officials are responsible for shutting down factories if pollution levels rise too high. This can lead to major financial losses for local businesses. 

Another official from the Shaanxi Provincial Environmental Protection Department said that the government had set up measures to prevent altering statistics. For instance, a long-distance surveillance system will send alarms if it detects any data exceptions. 

Moreover, the central government carries out surprise inspections of stations, while provinces frequently cross inspect each others stations, the report said.

In 2015, it was discovered that the Environmental Protection Bureau in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province, had been altering its PM 2.5 readings by spraying air samplers with water from a fire hose, the China Business View reported.


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