|A chart illustrates the illegal waste discharging deep underground in Shandong Province's Weifang City|
A reward of up to 100,000 yuan (US$16,000) is being offered to anyone who blows the whistle on companies illegally discharging waste deep underground in Shandong Province's Weifang City.
The offer by the local government follows online claims that many chemical companies in the east China city have been using high-pressure injection wells to discharge waste sewage over 1,000 meters deep underground for years, seriously polluting underground water and posing a cancer threat.
A post on Weibo said the companies were all "rich and powerful" ones preparing for initial public offerings, and they used injection wells - vertical pipes sunk into the ground - so supervisors would not notice the illegal discharges.
The Weifang government told Xinhua news agency that they had investigated 715 companies but so far hadn't found any polluting the underground water.
It said it wanted whistleblowers to come forward.
The post was just one among many exposing pollution scandals in an online campaign to reveal widespread water pollution in China during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.
The campaign was started by Deng Fei, a journalist of the Phoenix Weekly magazine, who asked people to photograph or film pollution when they returned to their hometowns during the holiday.
The online posts claimed that it was common practice for chemical companies to directly discharge waste water deep underground in Shandong Province where many villagers in towns near the factories mainly relied on underground water for drinking.
"I'm from Tai'an City of Shandong. For several years, sunlight cannot shine through thick haze as many chemical factories were set up, discharging waste water directly into underground," said one post.
"I drink bottled water purchased from outside the town, but most villagers still drink the underground water. More and more people caught cancer at young age and many local children caught pneumonia," the post said.
Another post by a villager in Shandong's Zibo City said the water from wells appeared to be as black as ink and had a sour taste. It said the problem had been identified as long ago as December 2010 but claimed the local government hadn't tried to correct the problem.
According to China Geological Survey, 90 percent of underground water in China has been polluted to some extent, while 60 percent of that is seriously polluted, Xinhua reported.
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