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Chores are a joy as taps flow again
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-29 06:34

HARBIN: Washing clothes, cleaning the home, having a shower and going out for a meal what used to be routine for many residents was yesterday reason for jubilation in the city of 3.8 million.

Taps began to flow normally in most parts of the capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province after a five-day ordeal when water supply was cut due to the contamination of the Songhua River, the city's main water source.

After Sunday's restricted supply, 90 per cent of the usual daily supply was flowing in the pipelines yesterday, said Wang Minghe, deputy director of Harbin Water Supply Company.

But he added that it was possible that some houses did not get any because almost all the taps were turned on.

Wang Ying, an accountant, said that supply resumed in the morning.

"The colour of the water was a little yellow at first, but it soon returned to normal," she said.

"I finally washed all the clothes piled up; and will clean up my apartment in the evening," she said.

Water-guzzling businesses such as bathhouses and car-wash facilities remained closed, but there was a discernible bustle in the restaurants.

"I can finally stop eating instant noodles and bread and ham, and have a big feast this evening with my friends," said Lu Qingguang, a taxi driver.

Liu Minglie, spokesman for the Harbin Health Bureau, reassured residents that staff were checking water safety at all communities.

No poisonous substance was found in wells within 500 metres from the riverbank after the slick passed by, he said.

The local television station is displaying a digital map of Harbin during its news programme every hour, with red sections indicating water is unuseable; yellow, useable but not drinkable; and green, safe for all uses.

An expert team led by the State Environment Protection Administration is evaluating the environmental impact after the contaminated water passed Harbin.

"We provided them with the water and mud samples from the river bottom, and they will come up with a plan to restore the ecological condition of the Songhua River," said Zhou Linbo, spokesman for the Harbin Environment Protection Bureau.

The next place in danger is Dalianhe Town of Yilan County, 250 kilometres from urban Harbin, as more than 26,000 out of the 36,000 residents there rely on river water, according to Sun Yikun, a local official.

The town's water inlet is 12 kilometres upstream from the town and a water checking station has been set up 20 kilometres upstream from the inlet to signal suspension of water supply.

The slick is estimated to reach the inlet at around 11 pm on Wednesday. "Three hours before it arrives, we will cut the water supply," Sun said.

All schools in the town will be closed from tomorrow and the water shutdown is expected to last four days.

The town has started using all the 532 small wells in courtyards and eight deep wells.

(China Daily 11/29/2005 page2)

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