Suspicions linger as east China river declared safe after spill

09:09, July 14, 2010      

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Local government officials Tuesday declared an east China community's drinking water safe after a mining company contaminated a river 10 days ago.

However, many of the 60,000 people whose water sources were affected by the spill say they still fear drinking the water as the river color remains a chemical blue and the water gives off a foul smell.

The water quality was up to the national standard of safety as a drinking water source, said Lan Fuyan, deputy head of Shanghang County government, in Fujian Province.

Eight water quality monitoring points had been set up at the upper, middle and lower reaches of the Tingjiang River and all water samples had shown that by July 8, the river water was safe, Lan said.

The two water plants in the county that take water from the river stopped their supplies between 6 a.m. on July 4 and 2 a.m. on July 5, said Lan.

Pollution from Zijinshan Copper Mine, owned by Zijin Mining Group Co., had severely contaminated the river, killing thousands of fish at Shanghang County.

A total of 9,100 cubic meters of waste water penetrated the sewage tank and flowed through the drainage culvert into the Tingjiang River between 4 p.m. on July 3 and 2:30 p.m. on July 4, Lan said.

Preliminary investigations showed that the penetration occurred due to the damage in the impermeable membrane of the sewage tank.

Luo Yingnan, head of the company, on Tuesday restated the company's claim that drinking water was safe. "The leak does not affect local drinking water."

But villagers remain suspicious.

"I wouldn't dare drink the bluish, smelly water," said Liao Zhiyuan, villager of nearby Shangshan Village, Yongding County.

The river is light blue due to the copper contained in wastewater leaked to the river and it smells of rotten fish. About 1.89 million kg of fish in the Mianhuatan Reservoir in Yongding County were killed.

Villagers have resorted to well water, but some still worry that even groundwater is no longer safe.

"If the water poisoned fish, how can I be sure that the water is safe for people? I am afraid that even groundwater was contaminated," said Xue Huadi, a villager of Hekang Village, Shanghang County.

Shares in Zijin Mining (OOTC:ZIJMY) dived 5.35 percent to 5.66 yuan (84 US cents) Tuesday in Shanghai. The company had suspended trading in its shares on Monday.

The company has said it would compensate fish farmers for their losses and had suspended production at the mine.



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