Friday, December 23, 2005

Benzene out, cadmium in

Now that the huge slug of benzene has flowed out of China and into Russia on the Songhua River, it's time to pollute again. Now it's a zinc smelter in the south that discharged massive amounts of cadmium into the Beijiang River, shutting down the drinking water supplies of several cities.
A resident contacted by telephone in Shaoguan, in the far northern section of southern Guangdong province, said water was cut off all day Tuesday. The taps began running again about 5 p.m., she added.

The official Guangdong television station warned residents at certain points downstream not to drink tap water drawn from the river, which runs about 300 miles southward through the heavily industrialized province until it spills into the Pearl River.

In Yingde, a city of 1 million people 60 miles south of Shaoguan, officials started building a mile-long water pipeline to connect the threatened downtown area with a suburban reservoir isolated from the river-borne pollution, the official New China News Agency reported.

An unnamed government official told the agency that the pipeline should be completed before the polluted waters reach the city distribution system, which is expected to be sometime Thursday. In addition, he said, fire engines and other tanker trunks have been mobilized to carry water to the downtown area, and upstream reservoirs have released water into the river to dilute the pollution. (WaPo)
Amazing. They are trying to dilute the poison in a river by discharging clean water from fire engines and tanker trucks. That's a new one on me.

The state-owned smelter has offered no explanation for the high cadmium levels in its discharge or why they didn't take more care. In the true spirit of American capitalists, they have blamed some of the pollution on other chemical factories on the river.

A reminder to China's burgeoning consumer class: Be careful what you wish for.