Elizabeth Economy has a fascinating article on China's environmental crisis and its impact on the economy. Doesn't mention the 50-mile long benzene slick that went to Russia, but it points out that levels of certain heavy metals along the Guangdong cost are 2000 times the regulation limits, the shrimp catch has declined 90 percent in the last 15 years, and around 190 million people suffer from respiratory illnesses.
It's all pretty staggering stuff, but there's relatively little hope that the Chinese government - both in Beijing and especially in the local areas - will take the necessary steps to ensure not just one-off improvements, but a long lasting system of monitoring and evaluation. The economic incentives just aren't there. A case in point: one factory owner said he was ignoring environmental regulations because the upgrade would equal 15 years worth of penalties. And while the central government is concerned about the environment, they're even more concerned about economic development. Unfortunately, that's just not the political environment for protecting the natural one.
EDIT: Additional articles and multimedia on the subject from the New York Times can be found here.