December 22, 2005

China river spill reaches Russian city

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A chemical spill that poisoned drinking
water for millions of Chinese has reached a major city in
Russia's far east, a news agency said on Thursday, but the
concentration of pollutants was no longer considered dangerous.

"Analysis of the water showed that the benzene content does
not exceed ... the maximum allowable concentration,"
RIA-Novosti quoted an Emergencies Ministry official as saying.

"As a result the city authorities have decided not to turn
off the Khabarovsk water supply because of the arrival at the
city of the slick of polluted water."

Khabarovsk, a city of 580,000, had readied alternative
water supplies while waiting for the slick to wind its way
northeast to Russia's Amur river, known in China as Heilong.

An explosion at a chemical plant in China's Jilin province
last month poured some 100 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene
compounds into the Songhua river, poisoning the drinking water.

Russian workers also had temporarily dammed a waterway to
divert the pollution away from a river area where Khabarovsk
gets its water.

China is facing another environmental disaster this week as
the southern province of Guangdong scrambles to protect its
water supplies while a waste spill from a zinc smelter flows
along a major river toward several cities.

Around 70 percent of China's rivers are contaminated,
raising questions about the cost of its economic boom.