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Man sues over FMD burial site management

A real estate owner near a burial site for cattle culled to prevent the further spread of foot-and-mouth-disease filed suit against the government Saturday over environmental damage he said the slaughter and burial have caused.

The suit makes him the first person to file for compensation over the FMD measures but observers expect more to follow as the weather grows warmer and decomposition speeds up.

According to the Seoul Central District Court, the case was filed by a man identified by the surname Lee, asking the Paju government in northern Gyeonggi Province to pay him 300 million won ($270,000) in compensation for burying 10 to 15 dead animals in his soil without his consent in December, when the FMD was spreading and slaughtering the animals was considered the best preventative measure by authorities.

“The land was severely polluted with leachate and stench. Experts said I will not be able to cultivate there and the surrounding area for the next 10 to 15 years. This is a clear violation of private property,” Lee said in his complaint.

Observers forecast that more people could ask for the state compensation over the side effects of the “hastily” implemented burials amid cold weather from November to February. Authorities estimate that more than 3.5 million cows, hogs, goats, deer and other animals have been culled and buried at more than 4,000 sites nationwide.

Conventionally, animals are killed before disposal, but since the outbreak spread so quickly authorities admitted that they failed to follow slaughtering rules.

They later said that more than 1.4 million pigs and cows may have been buried alive throughout the country. They were dumped in a 5-meter-deep pit lined with double-folded vinyl, which could easily have been torn since the animals were buried alive.

Public concerns were escalating over possible biological contamination.

The Environment Ministry repaired hundreds of burial sites near water sources and residential areas after surveys showed that 143 out of 3,000 sampled underground water sources within a 300-meter radius of animal burial sites across the nation had high rates of bacteriological contamination beyond state standards.

Still, residents at Paju reported tap water to be contaminated with blood and claimed it to be related to late last year when nearly 1,000 hogs were buried alive. Some others reported extreme odor from the sites stemming from the decomposition process. 

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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