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Hanjiang River dirty, tap water suspended
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Since February 24, serious pollution has been found in the Hanjiang River. Tap water supplies have been suspended for over 200,000 people living along the three distributaries connected to the lower reaches of the river in Jianli and Qianjiang cities, Hubei Province.

Lives of the residents in over ten towns and farms have been affected. However, the actual pollution source has not been identified to date.

At 4 pm on February 24, local water work staff found that the Dongjing River, one of the three distributaries where they take in water, turned unusually red and foul and contained large amounts of foam, a local newspaper revealed yesterday via quoting Gao Qijin, Director of Xingou Township Water Works, Jianli County.

"It obviously doesn’t meet health standards, so we stopped taking in water to avoid any health hazards," Gao said.

But, no emergency water intake option for the water works currently exists so local water supplies had to be stopped for the more than 60,000 residents. Currently they are only relying on a small number of wells and bottled water. Five township schools were subsequently closed after the incident was reported.

To find the source of the pollution, the water works authorities immediately sent staff upstream to track the source. In the meantime, three water works plants in adjacent Qianjiang County and its environmental protection bureau also noticed the pollution and began tracking its source.

Yesterday evening, they trailed the polluted water to the Qianjiang border, a junction of Jingmen and Tianmen cities.

Then at about 5 pm, they found polluted water coming from the Hanjiang River via the Xinglong floodgate.

One official surnamed Peng from the Qianjiang City Environmental Protection Bureau reported that tap water has been suspended for the nearly 200,000 inhabitants in the county’s five farming districts and three towns.

The staff said that the pollution was not necessarily caused by upstream sewage. He explained that recent sudden warm weather might have led to organic substances in the Han River decomposing and fouling the water, the newspaper reported.

At present, Jianli and Qianjiang counties have initiated an emergency water supply plan. However, regular water supplies remain unsustainable due to poor underground water quality and high purifying costs.

Last night, Jianli County submitted a proposal to the Hanjiang River Authority to close the Xinglong floodgate and open another gate connecting Changhu Lake upstream in order to allow clean water to flush the polluted water away.

(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong, February 26, 2008)

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