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Harbin ready to resume water supply 2005-11-26 14:33:33

(Source: China Daily)

Queuing for water: A young boy carries an empty water container as
residents queue for water in the northern Chinese city of Harbin. [AFP]

Residents line up to receive water in Harbin, capital of Northeast
China's Heilongjiang Province, November 25, 2005. [Reuters]

HARBIN, Nov. 26 - This capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province
is racing against time to make sure drinking water will be safe once the
supply is resumed.
Workers were installing new filtering material at the city's water plants
on Friday. They were replacing anthracite with activated carbon, which
can absorb more pollutants. More than 80 People's Liberation Army
soldiers joined the work at the No 3 plant, which purifies 80 per cent of
the city's drinking water.
A 80-kilometre swathe of contaminated water in the Songhua River, which
supplies water to the city, was flowing through and expected to leave the
urban area before Saturday noon.
The slick, caused by a chemical plant blast on the upper reaches of the
river on November 13, forced Harbin to suspend its water supply for four
days starting from midnight on Tuesday.
The city now has more than 1,200 tons of active carbon, an amount
considered "basically sufficient," the government said on its website.
More active carbons will arrive on Saturday from Hebei and Shanxi
provinces and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, it added.
Wang Minghe, deputy director of the water plant, told the local media
that "we are ready to serve once the contaminated water passes."
Also, a work group of the State Council, China's cabinet, left Beijing on
Friday for Harbin, a city of 3.8 million people, to investigate the
The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said on Thursday
that a chemical plant of the Jilin Petrochemical Company, under the China
National Petroleum Corp, (CNPC) was responsible for the toxic spill.
"The presence of disciplinary officials on the team indicates that
punishment of irresponsible acts are on the way," Xinhua said, without
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.
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
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
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.
"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.

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