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Water Safe In China Despite Toxic Spills

File photo of the Xiangjiang River in Hunan province.

Beijing (AFP) Jan 09, 2006
Water supplies for millions of residents will remain safe despite two new toxic spills into rivers in China, officials said Monday, as authorities worked to dilute the chemical slicks.

In the diesel oil spill in east China's Shandong province, water supplies from nearby reservoirs can adequately meet the demands of millions of people in the province until the slick flows out to sea in a week, officials said.

In central China's Hunan province, the slick of cancer-causing cadmium that leaked into a river has been significantly diluted and water treatment plants there were able to filter out the pollution, local officials said.

The twin cases emerged as China was still reeling from two major chemical spills over the past two months, raising further concerns about the nation's already serious water pollution problems.

One of the two latest spills occurred Thursday when a pipe froze and broke in Gongyi city, Henan province, and caused six tons of oil to spill into a tributary of the Yellow River, the Xinhua news agency said.

Officials had thought the density of the slick would be low by the time it reached the Yellow River in neighboring Shandong province Saturday but it was still 27 times above the national safety standard.

The 60-kilometer (37-mile) oil slick flowing down the Yellow River, China's second longest river, forced the province to stop pumping water from it, Xinhua said Sunday.

But all the cities and counties affected, including the six-million people in capital Jinan have enough water from reservoirs, staff at Shandong's Yellow River Affairs Bureau, told AFP Monday.

"We have prepared plenty of water in the reservoirs," said an employee there who requested anonymity.

Fortunately for the province, farmers do not need the river for irrigation or fishing because it is winter, the employee said.

"In the short-term, there won't be any problems with water supply," Xinhua quoted Guo Jinzhi, deputy director of the river affairs bureau, as saying.

Officials are increasing the release of water from dams and using chemicals to dilute the oil slick, which is expected to flow out to the Bohai Sea by January 13, said another employee at the bureau.

The other spill occurred on Wednesday when a mismanaged silt clean-up project allowed the industrial chemical cadmium to flood out of a smelting works and into the Xiangjiang River in Hunan province, 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.

The amount of cadmium spilled, however, had significantly dropped from 25.6 times above safe levels to about 0.0012 times by Sunday, Xinhua said.

Local authorities there are also trying to neutralise the cadmium slick with different chemicals and dilute it by releasing water from a dam.

Water treatment plants have been able to filter the water to safe levels, making it unnecessary for tap water supply to be interrupted, Xinhua said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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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.

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