Sun Dec 25,10:30 PM ET
A spill of toxic cadmium that sparked China's second major environment scare of the winter should be safely diluted before the fouled river water reaches major cities in the south, the China Daily said on Monday.
Authorities had dumped 380 tonnes of chemicals and opened reservoirs to dilute the more than 1,000 tonnes of cadmium-contaminated water a zinc smelter spilled into the North River on December 15, the newspaper said.
"The cadmium content of the slick dropped 20 percent on Saturday," local environmental protection official Li Zisen was quoted as saying.
Shortly after the accident, cadmium levels in the water surged to nearly 10 times above safety standards, forcing authorities in areas downstream to turn off tap water supplies to tens of thousands of people in Guangdong province.
But tests done over the weekend showed levels of the metallic element, which can cause liver and kidney damage and lead to bone diseases, had dropped to just over safe limits, the China Daily said.
Drinking water emergency measures were still in effect in the booming downstream cities of Guangzhou and Foshan, the newspaper said, though a Guangzhou government spokesman was quoted as denying the city had shut public taps.
The government closed the zinc smelter, China's third largest, along with 14 other smelting plants in Shaoguan city, it said. The smelter's director was relieved of his post on Thursday pending "further investigation into the incident."
In November, an explosion at a chemical plant in China's northeast poisoned drinking water for millions and sent a frozen, poisonous slick heading slowly but surely toward Russia.
China's top environmental minister resigned after the November 13 accident in Jilin province and a vice mayor in charge of evacuating the city where the explosion occurred was said to have hanged himself.