“When talking to other parents, we found that almost all the pupils had similar symptoms, and we could all smell the stench. Then we began to suspect [the symptoms] were caused by pollution,” the father of one pupil was quoted as saying.
When the pupils moved into the new buildings, the soil was being excavated for treatment, which left a heavy stench in the area.
But to allay concerns, authorities decided that instead of treating the soil, they would seal it with a layer of clay.
The school issued a statement in mid-February, saying the air and clay cover had tested safe, according to an earlier report by Caixin. Still, some parents were not convinced and chose to transfer their children to other schools.
The soil was severely contaminated by a number of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, CCTV said, with the level of carcinogenic chlorobenzene in the groundwater 94,799 times safe limits.
Yet a local education official insisted there was no problem with the location, and said it passed an environmental impact assessment.
The CCTV investigation found the construction of the 310 million yuan (HK$371 million) school started seven months before the assessment was completed. The assessment concluded it was safe to build the school but suggested the groundwater should not be used as “soil and groundwater in the area has been polluted”.
Parents commissioned their own tests and found chemical pollutants including toluene, acetone, and carcinogenic benzene in the air, and excessive levels of manganese and fluoride in the groundwater the school was using, the report said.
The environmental ministry confirmed in January a total of 1,500 cubic metres of contaminated soil containing petrochemical pollutants had been removed.