Pollution leads to muddy tap water

Updated: 2011-11-15 07:56

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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HARBIN - Each time he passes by the water taps in his home, 53-year-old Zhao, in Jixi, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, exhales a long sigh.

For a decade, Zhao has been carrying 50 liters of spring water from a nearby mountain every three days to meet the family's daily needs.

Each trip to the mountain to fetch water takes him about two and half hours.

"The tap water has remained turbid and gray since the last 10 years. Residents here just fetch or buy water from outside for drinking," Zhao told China Daily.

Things got worse in the last three months, with the water, sometimes, turning dark gray, Zhao's wife, surnamed Mu, added.

"It can only be used to clean the floor and flush the toilet," she sighed.

This means good business for the local water supplier, a 38-year-old man surnamed Jing. "I sent nearly 100 buckets of water every day in October, about twice more than in September."

More than 30,000 people in Jixi city dare not drink tap water or use it to wash vegetables since the last 10 years, due to the severe industrial pollution in a nearby river.

Muling River flows past several cities including Muling and Jixi, providing water to nearly 2 million people living along it.

The plight of the locals came into focus only after China National Radio (CNR) reported it in early November. Kuang Hongxing, deputy director of the Jixi environmental protection bureau, blamed industrial pollution and lack of proper filter in the Muling River as causing impurities in tap water, CNR reported.

Bian Jingxia, director of Muling environmental protection bureau, said an investigation team has been formed to probe the case of tainted tap water and those found responsible will be punished.

Investigators found North Electrothermal Co, Wanshida Woven Plastic Factory and three sand plants were discharging polluted waste into the river.

Authorities have ordered the electrothermal company to clean its sludge pool, build another two and slapped a fine of 550,000 yuan ($ 86,000), Bian said, adding that the plastic factory was ordered to suspend production and fined 650,000 yuan.

"We are busy drafting the Muling water protection plan and hope the (clean-up) work can start next year," Bian said, adding that the preliminary budget will reach 300 million yuan.

But some residents said they were still not optimistic about improvement of tap water quality, which seemed to be steadily worsening.

Water dealer Jing said he was getting muddy water from his tap these days and Wang Hengsheng, another Jixi resident, said he found a small worm in the tap water on Monday morning.

Muling and Jixi tap water factories could not be reached on Monday.

Ma Chaode, former director of the World Wide Fund For Nature's freshwater program in China, said industrial pollution has become a major contributor to the worsening quality of water in China's rivers and lakes.

Zhou Huiying contributed to this story.