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Contaminated Water Returning to Safe Level
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The cadmium toxic slick in Guangdong's Beijiang River is expected to return to a safe level before it reaches other downstream cities, according to a report released yesterday by local authorities.

Since measures were undertaken last Friday to disperse the toxic slick in the southern Chinese province, environmental protection watchdogs have poured 380 tons of chemical dilutant into the toxic slick.

"The cadmium content of the slick dropped 20 percent on Saturday," said Li Zisen, who heads up the watchdog team.

A total of 1,200 tons of the chemical dilutant is expected to be introduced into the slick.

In an attempt to further dilute the toxic spill, more than 54 cubic metres of water per second is being released from Nanshui Reservoir in Shaoguan, a city upstream from the slick.

The cadmium content of the slick at Nanhua Waterworks near Yingde dropped to 0.012 milligrams per litre on Saturday, still a little higher than the safety level of 0.01 milligrams per litre, according to tests performed by the Guangdong provincial health department.

"The chemical level is expected to return to normal before it reaches Feilaixia Dam in Qingyuan, more than 100 kilometres downstream from Yingde," Zhang Jianjun, spokesman of Qingyuan municipal government, told China Daily yesterday. The slick is flowing at a speed of 4.5 kilometres per day, he said.

The slick was caused by a spillage of more than 1,000 tons of heavy cadmium contaminated water from Shaoguan Smelting Plant on December 15. The event caused huge economic losses, with the total direct and indirect loss amounting to 150 million yuan (US$18.75 million).

The director of the Shaoguan plant, Zhang Weijian, was suspended from office on Friday while further investigations are conducted.

The other 14 smelting plants in Shaoguan have been closed.

Officials in Guangzhou and Foshan, towns downstream from Beijiang, are keeping a close eye on developments in the cleanup, and drinking water emergency measures enacted on Wednesday by the two cities remain in effect.

It was reported that Tianhe, one of Guangzhou's 10 districts, ceased its water supply yesterday afternoon, though the government denied this.

"I didn't hear anything about a suspension of the water supply," Lu Shaokun, spokesman of Guangzhou Garden Bureau, said yesterday.

(China Daily December 26, 2005)

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