When I was in Beijing last week a colleague and I paid a visit to the offices of China Daily (think Fox + USA Today) to interview Eric Zhang, the editor of China Daily's 'citizen journalist' initiative molive.cn (link). We wanted to learn about what sorts of environmental items make it on the site and how they are presented, on the day of our visit Molive's front page had an item on a polluted lake with some surprisingly heavy government criticism, Eric showed us a whole series of environmental posts, including this one. (link) Yes, that is a man holding a handful of worms and toxic sludge. I knew I would have to research this further when I got home.
It turns out that vermicomposting is a very real thing (link) and there are actually some people in the developing world who imagine industrial pollution can be righteously destroyed by worms (link), but unfortunately it seems that when the waste is toxic.. well the worms tend to get sick and die – just like poor people who live around the polluted cess pools do. AND furthermore I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know that only bad things happen when slimy slithery creatures feed on large amounts of toxic sludge - but obviously the politburo is not losing any sleep over the idea of giant worms ravaging the people's heartland. Bonus: Babelfish translation in the comments