Sunday, November 27, 2005

China city water supply resumes

Mains water supplies in the Chinese city of Harbin have resumed five days after they were cut due to a toxic chemical spill.
Provincial governor Zhang Zuoji took the first drink after supplies were reconnected, Xinhua news agency said.
An 80km (50-mile) stretch of contaminated water passed through the city of 3.8m people after 100 tonnes of benzene spilled into the Songhua river.
The contaminated water is due to reach Russian cities downstream in two weeks.
Beijing has begun an inquiry into the spill caused by an explosion at a petrochemical factory on 13 November.
For the last five days, Harbin's residents have been relying on bottled water and water delivered by lorries.
China has apologised to Russia for the pollution heading towards Russian rivers.
Traffic lights
Inspections on Saturday evening revealed that water quality in the Songhua river upstream of Harbin had returned to national standards, Xinhua reported.
The restoration of supplies at 1800 (1000 GMT) on Sunday came five hours earlier than expected.
However correspondents pointed out it was not immediately clear whether this would continue or whether it was for the whole city.
13 November Explosion at petrochemical plant, Jilin city
21 Nov Water to Harbin city cut off; local government cites mains maintenance
22 Nov State media say water could have been contaminated after the blast
23 Nov Authorities admit very high levels of benzene have been found in the water
23 Nov Authorities say 100 tonnes of benzene emptied into the Songhua river
26 Nov China apologises to Russia where the pollution is expected to arrive within two weeks
Guidance on how safe it is to drink the water is to be available locally over the next few days.
TV stations will use a traffic light-style system to inform residents about water quality.
A red indicator will mean the water is unusable, yellow that it is suitable for bathing only, and green that the supply is fit for drinking.
To quicken the clean-up, water was discharged into the Songhua from nearby reservoirs to dilute the spill while the army installed new filters at Harbin's water plants.
Tests showed levels of nitrobenzene in the river, Harbin's main source of water, had dropped below the official safety limit.
On Friday, levels had been three times above the safety limit, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.
The toxic leak passed Harbin early on Sunday morning, said Lin Qiang, a spokesman for the provincial environmental protection bureau.
As it flows downstream, it is likely to contaminate Russia's Amur river, which feeds water to more than 500,000 residents of the Khabarovsk region.
In Khabarovsk, residents have been urged not to panic while the authorities plan to limit the damage from the approaching spill.
As soon as the presence of benzene is detected, a state of emergency will be introduced in Khabarovsk, Russian TV said.
Cold and hot water supplies will be cut off for at least 40 hours and schools, childcare organisations and restaurants will close.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 11:55:48 GMT© BBC MMV


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