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Chemical spill threatens drinking water for Chinese city: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 9, 2008
A poisonous chemical spill was Monday threatening drinking water supplies for more than 200,000 people in a city in southwest China, state media reported.

A truck carrying 33.6 tonnes of crude phenol overturned on Saturday and spilled the caustic chemical into the Zhesang river, which feeds a dam serving Baise city in Guangxi province, Xinhua news agency said.

The chemicals entered the dam area on Monday morning, it said, quoting a municipal government official.

About 15 kilometres (10 miles) below the dam was a water intake for 200,000 people in Baise, but it had not been determined how much of the river was polluted, Xinhua said.

The city government had also ordered more than 1,000 households in Yangyu town not to use water in the upper reaches of the dam.

Workers were building a barricade on the river and adding lime and active carbon to neutralise and absorb the phenol, which is used in the production of plastics and pharmaceuticals, Xinhua said.

Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, can additionally be used as an antiseptic or disinfectant in diluted form.

Chemical spills with serious health consequences are common in China.

In 2005, a massive chemical plant spill into northeastern China's Songhua River resulted in drinking supply cuts affecting millions of residents in Heilongjiang province.

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