August 31, 2006

China Shuts Factory, Detains Seven for Chemical Spill

BEIJING -- Chinese authorities have closed a factory and detained a manager and seven others following a chemical spill on a tributary to the Songhua River, which was poisoned by a huge benzene spill late last year.

The Changbai Jingxi Chemical Company dumped about 10 cubic meters of chemicals into the Mangniu River in northeast China's Jilin province on August 21, the chief of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, Zhou Shengxian, said in a report in the China Environment News on Thursday.

Zhou warned factories to expect strict treatment and sweeping inspections.

"When companies are serious polluters, we must be determined to get rid of some, reform some, and clean up some within a set time," Zhou told officials on Tuesday, the report said.

"We must focus our energies on resolving a bunch of longstanding problems and ensure water environmental safety in the Songhua River basin."

A chemical plant explosion in Jilin in November dumped 100 tonnes of benzene into the Songhua. The spill, initially covered up by local officials, led to the shutdown of water supplies to millions of people downstream and sparked concern downstream in Russia.

The government brought in over 1,000 soldiers and firefighters in an effort to stop the latest 5-km (3-mile) slick of reddish xylidine, an earlier report said. The chemicals did not enter the Songhua, Zhou asserted on Tuesday.

China has experienced a series of industrial accidents that have contaminated rivers.

Earlier this month, a ship carrying more than 200 tonnes of sulphuric acid ran aground near the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, leaking chemicals into an ancient canal.

And in June, a truck carrying coal tar overturned, dumping the load into the Dasha River in the northern province of Shanxi and contaminating water supplies for 50,000 people.