U.S. Water News Online
BEIJING — Seven government officials in China have been punished after an industrial chemical leak contaminated an eastern city's tap water supply, the local government said.
Officials in Jiangsu province discovered last month that the water supply to Yancheng city's 1.5 million residents had been polluted by phenol, a chemical used in the production of resins and plastics. They were forced to briefly cut the supply to hundreds of thousands of people.
Environmental inspectors found that a chemical plant belonging to Yancheng Biaoxin Chemical Company had been illegally discharging the compound into the city's Xinyanggang River, according to a statement posted on the Web site of the city government.
Two environmental officials from Yandu, a district of Yancheng, were fired, according to the statement. In that district, tap water supply for more than 200,000 residents was cut off, Xinhua News Agency said.
The officials — Gui Yongyue and Zhou Jingxian — were director and deputy head of the district's environment bureau. Five other officials responsible for water matters were issued warnings, the statement said.
State media reported the city will shut down more than 30 chemical plants, but did not say how or why the plants were chosen.
China's double-digit economic growth has come with a surge in heavily polluting industries. In recent years, several high-profile industrial accidents along major rivers have disrupted water supplies to big cities.
Last year, heavy pollution turned portions of the Han river, a branch of the Yangtze in central Hubei province, red and foamy — forcing the government to cut water supplies to as many as 200,000 people.
In one of China's worst cases of river pollution, carcinogenic chemicals, including benzene, spilled into the Songhua River in 2005. The northeastern city of Harbin was forced to sever water supplies to 3.8 million people for five days. The accident also strained relations with Russia, into which the poisoned waters flowed.
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