New Chemical Spills Threaten Water Supply For Millions In China
Beijing (AFP) Jan 08, 2006
Two major new toxic spills in China have threatened water supplies for millions of residents, officials and state media said Sunday, as local governments took emergency measures.
In the eastern province of Shandong a 60 kilometer-long (37 mile) diesel oil slick flowing down the Yellow River, China's second longest river, forced the province to stop pumping water from it, the Xinhua news agency said.
So far 63 pumping stations along the river in several cities and counties, including the capital Jinan, have been shut down, said Xinhua.
An official at the Jinan city Yellow River River Affairs Bureau told AFP the city of about six million people was now relying on water from reservoirs.
"We still have water to provide. We are doing all right. We're using reservoir water, which can last us several months," said the official.
It was not immediately clear if other cities had similar backup supply.
Provincial officials could not be reached for comment even though the cabinet issued a nationwide emergency response plan Sunday that promises to inform the public of public health threats in a timely and accurate way.
The oil spill occurred Thursday at Gongyi city in neighboring Henan province when a frozen pipe broke, causing six tons of oil to spill into a tributary of the Yellow River.
However, Xinhua did not report it until Sunday.
Officials had thought the density of the slick would be low by the time it reached the Yellow River in Shandong Saturday but it was still 27 times above the national safety standard, Xinhua said.
In the central province of Hunan a mismanaged silt clean-up project allowed the industrial chemical cadmium, which can cause neurological disorders and cancer, to flood out of a smelting works and into the Xiangjiang River on Wednesday, Xinhua said.
The river supplies water to residents in the provincial capital Changsha, which has about six million people, and nearby Xiangtan city, which has 700,000 inhabitants.
Officials told AFP they have taken emergency measures and residents were not in danger.
Local authorities have blocked off the spill and are trying to neutralise the cadmium slick with different chemicals and to dilute it by releasing water from a dam.
Officials said they did not have to shut off water supplies since measures they took were effective and water treatment plants were able to filter out the pollution.
"The water being supplied by the water treatment plants is still up to standard," said an officer surnamed Zhou at the Changsha city government's office.
Xinhua said the amount of cadmium in the river reached 25.6 times above safe levels at its peak but had dropped to 0.14 times by Saturday.
However several residents said they did not know about the spill, which was not reported on Xinhua until Saturday night. It was not clear whether local media had reported it earlier.
The incidents follow a cadmium spill in southern China's Guangdong province which cut tap water supply to tens of thousands of people for more than a week last month.
In November a toxic benzene slick from a factory explosion in northeast China polluted the Songhua River and cut tap water to millions of city-dwellers in Heilongjiang province.
The spills have focused attention on water pollution in a country where millions still lack safe drinking water and most rivers are polluted by industrial and human waste.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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