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Officials battling toxic spill in Hunan river
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-09 05:40

A toxic spill polluted the Xiangjiang River in Central China's Hunan Province last week.

Measures to counteract the pollution are already under way, and it is unlikely that the cities will be forced to turn the water supply off, sources close to the provincial environmental bureau told China Daily.

Local authorities are trying to block off the spill, neutralize it with different chemicals and dilute it by releasing water from upstream reservoirs.

The spill, the third in three months in China, has polluted a stretch of about 100 kilometres of the river, which flows into Dongting Lake before feeding China's longest river, the Yangtze.

Local governments had urged water-supply departments to be prepared to stop tap water supplies if the amount of cadmium in the water is at unsafe levels.

Xinhua said the cadmium level was 25.6 times over the safe standard at the peak of the spill in some sections of the Xiangjiang River in Xiangtan, but had dropped to 0.14 times by Saturday.

Along the downstream of the river is a triangular urban cluster, which includes Changsha, the provincial capital, and the industrial cities of Xiangtan and Zhuzhou, where the spill took place.

The pollution was caused when a clean-up accident allowed the industrial chemical cadmium to flood out of a smelting works and into the Xiangjiang River on Wednesday. The chemical can cause neurological disorders and cancer if a certain level is consumed.

Jiang Yimin, director of the environmental bureau, said that the pollution was caused by inappropriate action during a silt cleaning project in Xiawan Harbour.

Zhuzhou Water Conservancy Investment Co Ltd launched the silt-cleaning project on December 23 last year without permission from the environmental department, according to the bureau.

The company formed a silt clearing dam by the mouth of a waste drainage pipe from Zhuzhou Smeltery on Wednesday. The water then flowed into two lakes, which contained high levels of cadmium waste from nearby plants, causing them to overflow into the Xiangjiang River.

In another development, a ship carrying 465 tons of sulphuric acid sank early yesterday in the Yangtze River in Yangzhong, East China's Jiangsu Province, provincial officials said.

No leak has been found so far, Xinhua reported.

(China Daily 01/09/2006 page2)

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