Chemical spill under control
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-24 06:20

A chemical spill that contaminated the Mangniu River, a tributary of the Songhua River, which runs through the city of Jilin in Northeast China's Jilin Province, was brought under control yesterday.

The river has been polluted with xylidine, causing a 5-kilometre slick of bubbly, red water, said the city's environmental protection bureau.

And preliminary investigations have found the pollutants were illegally discharged by the Changbaishan Jingxi Chemical Co.

The people responsible for the pollution have been detained.

The city government declared the spill an emergency and officials from the State Environmental Protection Administration, the provincial government and the provincial environmental protection bureau rushed to the polluted sector to stem the spreading slick.

More than 1,000 soldiers and firefighters built a pollution interception dam and two dams with activated carbon to absorb the pollutants.

No pollutants have yet been detected in the Songhua River, according to the city's environmental protection bureau.

Officials with the Heilongjiang Provincial Environment Protection Bureau said they were in close contact with their Jilin counterparts and have strengthened surveillance of the stretches of the Songhua River which flow through the province.

The spill alarmed some residents of provincial capital Harbin, a city with a population of 3.8 million, with local shops flooded with desperate shoppers stocking up on bottled water, despite an assurance from local water supplier the Water Supply and Discharge Company, that tap water was not affected.

The company said the current water shortage in some parts of the city is due to a decline in water pressure as many residents turned on their taps, filling sinks and baths to store clean water.

"I heard the news from my colleague," said resident Xu Dajiang, 24, who carried a carton of bottled water on his shoulder. "Though I am suspicious of whether it's true, there's nothing wrong with being cautious and fully prepared."

Harbin was forced to cut its water supply for four days last November because of severe pollution in the Songhua River from a chemical plant blast in Jilin city.

(China Daily 08/24/2006 page2)