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Officials claim abnormally high rainfall is to blame for tap water contamination in Chifeng, and that the local government and public utility providers should take steps to win back public trust, says an article in Changjiang Daily. Excerpt:

About 4,200 people in Xincheng district of Chifeng in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region have fallen ill after drinking contaminated tap water. The authorities have blamed the abnormally heavy rainfall on July 23 for the contamination.

But many people doubt if heavy rainfall could have contaminated the water source. In fact, on July 24, Jiulong Water Supply's inspectors noticed that a water supply well had been swamped. A day later, residents called to complain about foul-smelling tap water.

The water supplier, however, took no steps until the contaminated water made thousands of people ill.

It took three days for Chifeng municipal government to get the water supply contamination report. If a mechanism for timely and effective checks had been in place, thousands of residents would not have fallen ill. Hence, natural disasters cannot be blamed for all incidents.

The contamination case has created doubts among people about the safety and security of public services such as water in the city. If that is the case, one shudders to think what would happen in case of a sabotage or terrorist attack against the water supply system.

Enterprises that make or supply public utility products must be clear about safety consciousness and take strict preventive measures against accidents. And the authorities should exercise strict supervision on such production and supply. The authorities and the water supplier both need a rethink. They have to act promptly and win back public confidence.

(China Daily August 6, 2009)

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