The Huangpu river serves as the drinking water source for over 23 million inhabitants of Shanghai – the largest city by population in the People's Republic of China.
It also is a dumping ground for nearly 3,000 pig carcasses.
A disturbing find of approximately 2,800 putrid, rotting pigs was reported on by a March 11 AP release. The cause of the dead pigs remains a mystery. Local media reports out of Beijing have suggested the animals may have been dumped upriver by farmers from the neighboring province of Zhejiang.
The pigs were first discovered five days ago on March 7. As the pigs washed through Shanghai’s financial hub, photographs of the bloated, disemboweled carcasses circulated online and infuriated local residents.
City officials quickly ruled out any current drinking water contamination, but were guarded as to the potential long-term impact.
“We have to act quickly to remove them all for fear of causing water pollution," Xu Rong, the environmental chief in Shanghai's Songjiang district told the state-run Global Times newspaper. “So far, water quality has not been affected but we have to remove the pigs as quickly as possible and can't let their bodies rot in the water.”
Shanghai residents had a different response.
"Well, since there supposedly is no problem in drinking this water, please forward this message, if you agree, to ask Shanghai's party secretary, mayor and water authority leaders if they will be the first ones to drink this meat soup?" lawyer Gan Yuanchun said on his microblog.
Huang Beibei, a lifelong resident of Shanghai, was the first to discover the pig problem. His blog photos showed disturbing images of hundreds of floating pigs.
“This is the water we are drinking," Huang wrote. "What is the government doing to address this?”
Using long bamboo poles fitted with claws, environmental protection workers started hauling the dead pigs from the river over the weekend.
“We have never, ever encountered so many dead pigs,” said one mask-wearing member of the cleanup crew, who said it takes about 10 minutes to haul each pig aboard and properly bag it.
Chinese regulations call for diseased pigs to be buried or burned, although some dodgy farmers and even animal control officers have been found selling the meat to local markets and slaughterhouses.