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February 8, 2012

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Home » Metro » Environment

Chemicals leaking into Yangtze keep city water officials on alert

SHANGHAI authorities have stepped up supervision of water supplies after a chemical leak into the Yangtze River in neighboring Jiangsu Province.

An online rumor that a ship had capsized on an upstream section of the river was dismissed by police but Zhenjiang City officials said yesterday that a South Korean vessel berthed at Zhenjiang may have been responsible. An initial investigation pointed to a valve that hadn't been closed properly.

Zhenjiang officials said phenol, an acidic compound that dissolves in water, had contaminated its water source last Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The Jiangsu Province Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the concentration of phenol in Zhenjiang's tap water was low and wouldn't harm people's health.

Chen Wei, director of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau's emergency headquarters, said: "We have teamed up with the Jiangsu authorities to tighten supervision to protect water safety. We will shut the Qingcaosha reservoir, the city's main water resource at the mouth of the Yangtze River, if abnormal levels of chemicals are detected. The Jiangsu authorities also promised to inform us whenever water quality in nearby Zhangjiagang is found to have problems."

Jiangsu tap water had bad smell

Water officials said any impact downstream of the pollution in the Jiangyin section of the river would be seen over the next two days and they would keep a close eye on the situation.

According to Jiangsu media, most residents in Zhenjiang found their tap water had a bad smell last Friday. A woman surnamed Liu said she noticed the smell Friday afternoon and said the water irritated her throat when she drank it. "The smell was very strong," she said.

Zhenjiang officials said water quality had met the national standard early Saturday morning after treatment.

Meanwhile, the city of Rugao, also in Jiangsu, said it had detected excessive levels of phenol on Monday night at its reservoir and switched to a backup water supply. Water quality has since returned to normal, the city government said.

Bottled drinking water in Zhenjiang and neighboring cities soon sold out due to public concern. Zhenjiang residents rushed to buy bottled water on Saturday, and one worker said her supermarket sold more than 10,000 bottles in just four hours.

In Nantong, on the north side of the Yangtze River facing Shanghai to the south, there was a scramble to buy water after the rumor about the capsized ship spread. Pictures showing empty shelves were posted online.


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