BEIJING, Jan. 5 -- The diesel fuel leak into a tributary of the Yellow River has spread downstream into Shanxi and Henan provinces, contaminating and potentially affecting the drinking water supply of many local residents.
The fuel leaking into the Weihe River has reached the Sanmenxia reservoir on the Yellow River in Henan province despite earlier efforts to prevent it from spreading into the main river.
Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of environmental protection, urged all-out efforts to protect drinking water supply at an urgently scheduled meeting Monday.
The meeting, attended by senior officials from Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces and China National Petroleum Corp, owner of the broken oil pipeline, was held in Sanmenxia, the first point in Henan province through which the Yellow River passes.
Zhang urged the affected provinces to spare no effort to contain the contamination within the Sanmenxia Reservoir, and prevent the leak from spreading into Xiaolangdi Reservoir, 130 km downstream, as that may likely impact drinking water supply in Kaifeng and Zhengzhou, two densely populated cities in Henan province whose source of drinking water is the Yellow River.
The Sanmenxia reservoir has stopped generating electricity and dammed up the river since Jan. 3 to prevent polluted water from flowing in, according to the provincial government.
Cities along the Yellow River have all added monitoring stations to check the quality of water every hour.
Water was still considered safe for drinking, as the leakage had not reached the drinking water supply sources to cities in Henan province.
A resident of Sanmenxia, surnamed Cao, told China Daily on Monday that the drinking water supply was as usual.
"I think the government will inform us if the water supply is going to be cut off, and the TV station will also broadcast the notice. So far, there has been no such information," Cao said.
A restaurant owner surnamed Zhao also said her business was not impacted, and tap water was safe as of yesterday.
In Shanxi province, people living in Ruicheng, Pinglu, Yuanqu and Fenglingdu towns have been ordered not to use water directly from the river, according to a notice issued by the Yuncheng city government.
The four counties are located along the Yellow River and are under the administration of Yuncheng, an industrial city in the southern part of Shanxi province.
The notice said emergency stations are monitoring the water quality on a 24-hour basis since Jan. 2. Residents have been asked to stop using water directly from the Yellow River for the sake of safety.
In Shaanxi province, where the diesel spillage took place, agricultural production and normal life have seen little impact. Efforts were ongoing to clean up the spill in the Chishui and Weihe rivers.
"Our water sources are upstream from the diesel leak point and our life has not been impacted much by the incident," a villager in Chishui surnamed Bi told China Daily Monday.
Du Xinli, the director of a water quality monitoring station located just before the junction of the Weihe River and the Yellow River in Shaanxi province, told Xinhua that the diesel concentration peaked at 25.3 mg/l on Jan. 2. The concentration was 0.479 mg/l on Jan. 3, he said.
Some 10,000 cubic m of soil near the contaminated Chishui river had been removed to better control the pollution in the area, said Cai Xueming, deputy magistrate of Huaxian county, Shaanxi province in northwest China.
"About 1,000 sq m of land around the diesel spillage point was dug to a depth of 10 m to thoroughly clear out the diesel-polluted soil. The pits will be covered by non-polluted soil brought from other places," Cai said.
The broken diesel pipeline, which runs from Lanzhou in Gansu province to Changsha in Hunan province, was found leaking in the wee hours of Dec. 30 at a point close to the Chishui River, a tributary of the Weihe River.
Su Maolin, deputy director of the Yellow River Water Resources Commission, yesterday refuted the claim by CNPC that the broken pipeline was caused by a third-party construction project, and called for a further probe into the accident after the spill has been tackled.
(Source: China Daily)