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. China To Let UN Experts Inspect Toxic Slick

An employee of "Baltika" brewing company checks drinking water at its laboratory in the Siberian town of Khabarovsk, 01 December 2005. China said it will let the United Nations inspect a toxic slick moving along a major river to Russia, adding experts from the world body would be allowed on the ground "as appropriate". Harbin, one of northeast China's largest cities, suffered a five-day water shutdown after a blast at a PetroChina plant upstream released 100 tonnes of chemicals into the Songhua, which provides most of the city's drinking water. AFP photo by Yuri Tutov.

Beijing (AFP) Dec 01, 2005
China said Thursday it will let the United Nations inspect a toxic slick moving along a major river to Russia, adding experts from the world body would be allowed on the ground "as appropriate".

"Relevant departments of China are evaluating the impact of the pollution," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular briefing.

"Based on the results of the evaluation, we will invite experts from the UN agencies as appropriate to conduct investigations."

Harbin, one of northeast China's largest cities, suffered a five-day water shutdown after a blast at a PetroChina plant upstream released 100 tonnes of chemicals into the Songhua, which provides most of the city's drinking water.

Fifty tonnes of the chemicals, mostly benzene and nitrobenzene, were estimated to have been absorbed in the river bed and deposited along the banks above the city, Xinhua news agency said, citing environment officials.

The other 50 tonnes were believed to have passed through Harbin and were still posing a danger for many others in cities downstream, and also on the Russian side of the border.

"We will keep close cooperation with the Russian side so as to minimize the possible impact of the pollution on the Russian side," Qin said.

He said a Russian expert group was now conducting investigations in Harbin, reflecting Chinese willingness to engage in joint monitoring for pollution.

"China and Russia are discussing a memorandum of understanding on joint monitoring of water quality of cross-border rivers," he said.

Qin's remarks came as environmental protection authorities in Heilongjiang, the province where Harbin is the capital, said the chemical slick was moving more slowly downriver than expected.

The river is frozen over in several places, causing the slick to slow down, they said in a press statement Thursday according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

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Nightmare On Songhua River Shocks China Out Of Eco Complacency
Beijing (UPI) Dec 1, 2005
China's leaders have not yet formulated multiple response plans for a generation of disasters in the aftermath of the Songhua River toxic chemical spill.

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