China Environmental News Digest

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Benzene spill to impact Khabarovsk for four days - official

Moscow. November 29. (Interfax) - The concentration of toxic substances in the Amur River near the main water intake in Khabarovsk will remain higher than normal for no more than four days, said Russia's chief sanitary official and Federal Consumer Rights and Welfare Service chief Gennady Onishchenko.

"The benzene spill drifting downstream towards the Amur from China is 80 kilometers long. The spill is moving at a speed of two kilometers per hour and will pass the water intake in four days," Onishchenko told a news conference at Interfax on Monday.

The spill, resulting from an accident at a chemical plant in China, will drift further downstream towards Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Amursk, and will have to be monitored, he said.

"We'll have to monitor what traces it may leave behind and how the ice may be affected," Onishchenko said.

The Emergency Situations Ministry reported that the spill is expected to reach Khabarovsk on December 10-12.

"In any case this is a serious reminder for the Khabarovsk territorial government to draw up a strategy for tackling the problem of water supplies. The Amur has already been polluted by waste from overly populated China," Onishchenko said.

Also Monday, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said it is in command of the situation in the Jewish autonomous district and Khabarovsk, which may be affected by the Amur pollution with Chinese chemicals, Director of the Ministry's Emergency Situations Monitoring and Forecast Vladislav Bolov told a press conference in Moscow.

"We have taken all measures to prevent an emergency and are in full command of the situation," he said.

It is not a matter of possible damages on people, Bolov said. "People will not feel unwell or faint," he said.

Khabarovsk schools will not be closed and plants using Amur water in the production cycle will keep on working, he said.

Shortly after the accident, the ministry forecast the worst possible consequences as the maximum permissible concentration of benzene exceeded ten times and the maximum permissible concentration of nitrobenzene exceeded seven times. Yet Bolov said that would not happen.

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