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Authorities probe chemical spill that forced tap water shutdown

A CITY in east China's Jiangsu Province was forced to shut down its water supply for several hours yesterday morning after it was threatened by a chemical spill.

Tap water services for residents of Yancheng City were turned off at 7:20am after the water tested positive for phenol compounds, which can be used to make disinfectants. The water was flowing again at about 2pm after the city switched to another source.

The stoppage affected most residents and industrial production in the city, which has a population of more than 1.5 million. Residents flocked to markets to buy bottled water after the service suspension.

Effluents from a chemical plant leaked on Thursday into the Mangshe River, one of the city's chief water sources, after the plant piped waste into a drainage ditch that later flooded due to heavy rain, China National Radio reported yesterday. Yancheng police are investigating the spill, the report said.

A second water plant in the east of the city is supplying residents via a backup water source, the Tongyu River.

In recent years, several high-profile industrial accidents along major rivers have disrupted water supplies to big cities.

Last year, heavy pollution turned portions of the Hanjiang River, a branch of the Yangtze in central China's Hubei Province, red and foamy, forcing the government to cut water supply to as many as 200,000 people.

In 2005 in one of China's worst cases of river pollution, carcinogenic chemicals including benzene spilled into the Songhua River.

The northeastern city of Harbin was forced to sever water supplies to 3.8 million people for five days.


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