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Harbin ready to resume water supply
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-26 05:29

"The presence of disciplinary officials on the team indicates that punishment of irresponsible acts are on the way," Xinhua said, without elaborating.

On Friday, Harbin resident Ding Ning sued the Jilin plant in Nangang District Court, seeking 15 yuan (US$1.85), the amount he spent on bottled water, and a formal apology, local media reported. CNPC, the parent company, had apologized on Thursday. The court said it would decide on Monday whether to accept the case.

Harbin ready to resume water supply
Residents line up to receive water in Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, November 25, 2005. [Reuters]
It was estimated that about 100 tons of benzene and nitrobenzene were released into the Songhua River. The pollutants, moving at 2 kilometres an hour, were expected to flow downstream into Russia within a few weeks.

The concentration of nitrobenzene reached its peak at midnight on Thursday at Sifangtai, Harbin's first water inlet. It was 33 times more than the safety level, the Harbin Municipal Environment Bureau said on Friday.

An official with the Ministry of Water Resources said water flow in the Songhua is quite slow, as it is in a dry and frozen season. The ministry has ordered two reservoirs along the Songhua to discharge more water to dilute the pollutants,

The Fengman Hydropower Station in the city of Jilin, in neighbouring Jilin Province, was discharging water at 1,000 cubic metres a second, six times its usual volume.

The concentration is expected to fall further as more tributaries join the Songhua downstream from Harbin, said Zhou Linbo, spokesman for the bureau.

There were no cases of residents suffering from poison as a result of water pollution, said Liu Minglie, director of the Harbin Municipal Health Bureau.

Harbin ready to resume water supply
A Chinese woman pulls two pots of water on a trolley as residents line up to receive water in the city of Harbin, the capital of northeastern Heilongjiang Province, November 26, 2005. [Reuters]
"We are checking the newly drilled wells for benzene and nitrobenzene," he said.

To ease public concern over possible contamination in underground water, Liu said that no benzene or nitrobenzene had been found in the wells within one kilometre of the river bank. The health bureau disinfected 435 wells and 124 water tanker vehicles, he said.

Meanwhile, another chemical plant accident hundreds of kilometres away prompted fears of a second benzene leak and warnings to residents not to drink river water, Xinhua said.

The second incident was in Dianjiang, a county in Chongqing Municipality, Southwest China, where an explosion at a chemical plant on Thursday killed one worker, Xinhua said.

(China Daily 11/26/2005 page1)

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