Running water has been restored on Sunday to Harbin, a major Chinese city of 3.8 million, ending a five-day shutdown caused by a chemical spill. However, people have been warned it is still not safe // to drink the water.
Water service had been suspended since Tuesday, after authorities feared the Songhua River toxins contaminated the Songhua River following a chemical plant explosion on November 13, Xinhua said. The 50-mile long spill caused by 100 tons of Benzene had passed through Harbin, pushing the safety limits far down.
The spill is possibly the biggest ever of the chemical, a potentially cancer-causing compound used in making detergents and plastics.
Liu Yurun, general manager for the Harbin Water Group, the city's water utility, said local radio and television stations will broadcast a color-based indicator of water safety over the next few days — red for unusable, yellow for bathing only and green for drinking.
Work crews were busy installing over 1,000 tons of carbon filters at water plants to treat supplies from the Songhua, according to state media. In preparation, people lined up for another day in freezing wind, holding out buckets and teakettles for water provided free of charge and delivered by truck from wells operated by factories and a beer brewery.
The Harbin disaster began with a Nov. 13 explosion at the chemical plant in Jilin, a city about 120 miles southeast. Five people were killed and 10,000 evacuated. But the Chinese authorities announced only last week that the Songhua had been poisoned with 100 tons of benzene.
The state media have criticized local officials for reacting too slowly and not telling the public the truth in time. Environmentalists have said the government failed to prepare for such a disaster and questioned the decision to allow construction of a plant handling such dangerous materials near important water supplies.
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