Water safe as pollution drops in chemical spill

Updated: 2011-06-07 08:52
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HANGZHOU - The water sources for five water utility companies that were shut down in wake of a chemical spill into a river in East China's Zhejiang province are safe again, the provincial environmental protection bureau said Monday.

The five water companies could restart taking water from the Xin'an River, a major source of drinking water in Zhejiang, the bureau said in a statement.

Earlier the chemical spill affected water supplies for at least 552,200 people in Fuyang and Tonglu, two county-level regions in suburban Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang.

The bureau also ordered close monitoring of water quality that could prompt shut-down of water plants again in case pollution increased at their water-taking points.

The concentration of carbolic acid (phenol) at the accident site, however, was still over 900 times higher than safe drinking level, a sample showed Monday evening.

A tanker truck overturned on a highway near the river, resulting in the spillage of the truck's load of carbolic acid, an industrial chemical used to create plastic and other materials, late Saturday night. The chemical was washed into the river by heavy rains.

Following the chemical spill, the Xin'an River dam has increased water discharge to dilute the pollution levels.

Although supplies of drinking water in downtown Hangzhou have not been contaminated, some citizens have rushed to purchase bottled water, causing some supermarkets in the city to run out of bottled water.

The Hangzhou city government has called on citizens to store some water for daily usage.