Local Chinese call the Railway River tributary near where they live the “milky river,” due to its milky white color. Fish die in the water, it isn’t suitable for irrigating crops, and it’s being alleged that it’s the fault of a company that manufactures casings for Apple’s iPad.
The Financial Times carried a report on Friday that Riteng — a subsidiary of Casetek — is now under investigation by the Songjiang district government over environmental regulations. Residents living near the Railway River tributary where Riteng’s factories operate say that the river has turned milky white almost weekly since the newest factory opened two years ago. Discharges from the factory, they say, have killed off fish and shellfish and have left the water unusable for crop watering.
Casetek says the discharge was a result of workers improperly disposing of the water used to clean the factory during the lunar new year holiday.
“It’s just Chinese new year annual cleaning,” a Casetek representative told the Times. “We will cooperate with the government, and the pollution is nothing to do with the production line of our factory.”
However, regulators say that the pollutants came from the water used in the plant’s cutting and polishing process, not from cleaning the factory. Regulators are reported to have also found other violations at the factory.
While Apple is the main buyer of products produced at the factory, it also supplies Asus and HP.
While Apple has allowed third-party environmental audits of both itself and its supply chain, it isn’t clear if Riteng or Casetek have been audited.
AppleInsider reports that “significant threats to the environment” counts as one of Apple’s “core violations,” which are the most serious breaches of the company’s supplier agreements. Apple’s Supplier Responsibility 2012 Progress Report, says core violations “must be remedied immediately, sometimes with the help of expert consultants.” Suppliers that have had core violations are reaudited every year.