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January 4, 2010

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Workers attempt to contain oil spill

WORKERS in northern China dug diversion channels and used floating dams and solidifying agents to stem a diesel fuel leak from flowing into the Yellow River, the water source for millions of Chinese.

More than 700 workers worked over Saturday night to contain a spill that leaked from a pipeline into the Weihe River at Weinan, Shaanxi Province, following a construction accident last Wednesday.

The Weihe River is a major tributary of the Yellow River, China's second-longest, whose water quality has deteriorated rapidly as discharge from factories has increased and water levels drop because of diversions for booming cities.

The Shaanxi government said Vice Premier Li Keqiang ordered local officials to "strictly prevent leakage and pollution from flowing into the Yellow River and ensure the safety of drinking water for the masses."

It said the fuel slick had been contained in the Weihe River and no threats to sources of water for human or animal use in the Yellow River had been discovered. Earlier reports said the fuel slick had spread along 33 kilometers of the river.

The Weinan environmental protection bureau said workers laid 17 floating dams across the Weihe River to contain the leak, and spread chemicals to solidify the fuel and speed up the cleanup.

Workers also dug diversion trenches opposite the site of the leak to prevent accumulated fuel flowing downstream, the bureau said.

The pipeline's owner, China National Petroleum Corp, said it had plugged the leak in the pipeline and had removed a "large amount" of contaminated water, mud and sand.

"The amount of oil on the surface has noticeably dropped and the spread of the leak has essentially been brought under control," the company, China's largest producer of oil and gas, said in a news release.

There was no immediate word on disruption of supplies from the pipeline, which is a key fuel conduit between the capitals of northwest Gansu Province and central Henan Province.

Xinhua reported on Saturday that 150,000 liters of oil had leaked into the Weihe River.


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