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January 5, 2010

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Spill sparks drinking water warning

HUNDREDS of thousands of people have been ordered to stop drinking water from the Yellow River after a diesel spill from a ruptured pipeline in northwestern China seriously contaminated two rivers that flow into it.

The Chishui and Weihe rivers were contaminated after some 150 cubic meters of diesel leaked early last Wednesday from a ruptured pipeline belonging to the China National Petroleum Corporation, the country's top oil producer, Li Xiaolian, vice director with the Shaanxi Provincial Environment Protection Administration, said.

Three counties and an industrial zone in Shaanxi Province's Yuncheng City have been ordered to halt their use of river water, according to a notice issued by the local government. The areas have a combined population of about 850,000 people.

"Relevant departments remind those living along the river that for the sake of safety, both people and livestock should suspend use of Yellow River water for drinking," said the notice from the Yuncheng city government publicity office.

However, contamination to the Yellow River remained under control and its water quality was still within the state standard, Li said.

The leak occurred in Huaxian County in Shaanxi, about 3 kilometers away from the confluence of Chishui and Weihe rivers and 70 kilometers upstream from the Yellow River.

Statistics from a monitoring station in Tongguan County, where Weihe River joins the Yellow River, indicated yesterday morning that each liter of the water contained about 0.79 milligram of oil-like substance, still below the national limit of 1mg per liter.

The figure indicated a continuous decline of oil substance in the water compared to the 1.78mg reported on Friday at Tongguan.

Nine monitoring stations have been set up along Chishui and Weihe rivers to continuously test water quality.

China National Petroleum Corp, said in a statement on its Website that the situation remains "serious." It had dug a 100-meter channel at the source of the leak to divert uncontaminated water.


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