BEIJING, May 8 (Xinhua) -- China's environmental watchdog punished 15 factories, as well as companies in two industrial parks, in the first quarter of the year for violations that resulted in water or air pollution.
The factories either had their production suspended, were given a deadline to correct their practices or ordered to move their projects to other places and compensate those affected, said a release from the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Wednesday.
The plants were mainly punished for excessive or illegal discharges of exhaust gas and waste water, as well as noise and dust pollution, the statement said.
In February, microblog posts revealed that some factories in the city of Weifang in east China's Shandong Province had disposed of waste water underground, thus polluting the local water supply.
In response, the ministry said it has not found evidence that local factories have disposed of polluted water underground.
Local environmental authorities, however, did find that some factories in a local industrial park failed to build waste water disposal facilities and subsequently ordered them to correct their practices, the statement said.
Environmental pollution scares have popped up across China, with heavy smog smothering large swathes of the country and the exposure of several water pollution incidents earlier this year.
According to figures released by the ministry last year, underground water in 57 percent of monitoring sites across China is polluted or extremely polluted. In addition, 298 million rural residents do not have access to safe drinking water.