Algae outbreak threatening water supply

Updated: 2007-06-23 08:47

Algae outbreak threatening water supply

BEIJING -- As many as 2,000 people have been working on a lake in eastern China each day to remove fetid blue-green algae that is again threatening the water supply for millions of people, state media reported Friday.

An outbreak last month on Lake Tai forced 5 million residents of the lakeside city of Wuxi to drink and bathe with bottled water. The algae bloom, which top Chinese officials blamed on pollution, lasted six days until it was flushed out by rain and water from the nearby Yangtze River.

State media reported last week that the algae had returned and was covering one-third of the surface of Lake Tai, a famous but long-polluted tourist attraction in Jiangsu province.

The bright green algae, which scientists say are plantlike organisms, are common in fresh water worldwide. Some types can produce dangerous toxins.

Winds have pushed the algae bloom to the western end of the lake, 11 kilometers (about 7 miles) from Wuxi's main water plant. The algae is expected to grow rapidly as temperatures rise, the official China Daily newspaper reported, citing experts with the city's agriculture and forestry bureau.

"We have been pulling out more than 1,000 tons of algae from the lake every day, first using baskets and then pumps," said Zhang Xianzhong, an official with the bureau, adding that as many as 2,000 people have been involved in the effort each day.

More than 100 boats equipped with filtration devices will be used over the coming months to clear away the algae, Zhang was quoted as saying in the China Daily.

In neighboring Anhui province, a water plant had stopped using Lake Chao as a source this week, also because of blue-green algae contamination. The China Daily did not say how many people were affected by the outbreak.

China's waterways are polluted after decades of rapid economic growth and lax enforcement of pollution controls, creating ideal conditions for algae blooms. Outbreaks are usually caused by concentrated run-off of chemicals from industries and farms.

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