Excessive benzene found in NW China tap water

 

Citizens load bottles of water at a supermarket in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s

Gansu Province, on April 11, 2014. Tap water in downtown Lanzhou has been found to

contain excessive levels of benzene, provincial authorities said on Friday. Tests carried

out in the early hours of Friday showed that tap water contained 200 micrograms of

benzene per liter, far exceeding the national limit of 10 micrograms per liter, according

to the city’s environmental protection office.   Photo by Guo Gang

 

 

 

 

 

Excessive benzene found

in NW China tap water

 

 

By Yi Ling, Wang Heng and Wang Jian

 

 

More than 2.4 million people in downtown Lanzhou, northwest China’s Gansu Province, have been affected by tap water found to contain excessive levels of benzene, provincial authorities said on Friday of April 11.

Tests carried out in the early hours of Friday showed that local tap water contained 200 micrograms of benzene per liter, far exceeding the national limit of 10 micrograms per liter, according to the city’s environmental protection office.

The city government warned citizens not to drink tap water in the next 24 hours.

On Thursday, tests found that the water contained 118 micrograms of benzene per liter, according to Veolia Water, a Sino-French joint venture and the sole water supplier for the urban areas of Lanzhou, the provincial capital.

Benzene is a colorless chemical which is often used to make plastics. Excessive benzene can increase the risk of cancer.

The local government is investigating the source of the contamination. The departments of heath and environmental protection were ordered to take more samples for examination and to monitor the pollution respectively.

Sources with Veolia told Xinhua that they believed that the excessive benzene was caused by chemical plant waste water that contaminated the channel of the Veolia’s supply networks, but they refused to name the plant or plants in question.

The sources also denied the possibility that the Yellow River, the water source of the water plant, was polluted.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, the provincial government’s publicity office recounted Veolia’s speculation and reaffirmed that the Yellow River, which runs across the city, is not contaminated.

Lanzhou residents panicked upon hearing the news, rushing to supermarkets or community grocery stores to stock up on bottled water.

At the Hualian Supermarket, one of the largest of its kind in downtown Lanzhou, many consumers had their trolleys or baskets full of cases of bottled water.

Latecomers gathered in front of empty shelves, waiting for resupply.

“I had no idea what benzene was. But my family are all scared. My husband called to ask me to come here and snap up as much bottled water as I can,” Ms. Luo told Xinhua.

This is the second case of tap water pollution in Lanzhou in two months. On March 6, residents reported smelling a strange odor when they turned on their taps.

The local government later confirmed that the concentration of nitrogen and ammonia was higher than usual, but still within the limits of the national standard.

 

 

 

 

A staff member walks past water samples at Veolia Water, the sole water supplier for

more than 2 million people in urban Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu

Province,  on April 11, 2014.   Photo by Chen Bin 

 

Local residents queue up for safe water supplied by the government in a community

in Lanzhou on April 11, 2014.   By Chen Bin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on April 12, 2014

 

Oil leak blamed for

tap water contamination

 

By Zhou Yan , Wang Heng, Bai Liping and Jiang Weichao

 

A subsidiary of CNPC, China’s largest oil company, is being blamed for an oil leak which contaminated tap water in Lanzhou on Friday, affecting 2.4 million people.

Crude oil leaked from a Lanzhou Petrochemical pipeline, poisoning the water source for a local water plant, and bringing hazardous levels of benzene into the city’s tap water, said an environment official during a conference call with the city government on Saturday of April 12.

Investigators found crude oil in soil along a duct between two water works owned by Veolia Water, a joint Sino-French venture and the sole water supplier for urban Lanzhou.

“The channel has been carrying water to Veolia Water’s No.1 and No.2 plants for decades. Under this ditch lies Lanzhou Petrochemical’s oil pipeline,” Yan told Xinhua.

He said the leak had been located, and and repairs were underway.

Excessive levels of benzene were reported on Friday morning and the city government warned citizens not to drink the water for 24 hours.

By 11:00 a.m. Saturday, benzene levels were confirmed safe at five out of the six tap water monitoring sites in Lanzhou, ranging from zero to 6.66 micrograms per liter.

At the sixth site, in Lanzhou’s outer Xigu District, benzene level was still at 35.15 micrograms per liter. China’s national limit for benzene in tap water is 10 micrograms per liter.

Lanzhou’s water works repeatedly washed its filter system to flush out the pollutant on Friday night, and kept water cycling to cleanse the pipeline,

The contamination caused panic on Friday. Stores and supermarkets ran out of bottled water, and many people complained of thirst.

Fire engines and water sprinklers carried water to downtown communities for emergency supplies, and residents fetched water with pots, basins and buckets until after midnight.

From Thursday evening to early Friday morning, Veolia Water found between 118 micrograms and 200 micrograms of benzene per liter at their plants.

Benzene is a colorless carcinogenic compound used to manufacture plastics. Benzene is known to damage the human hematopoietic system, which produces blood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on April 13, 2014

 

NW China city rids pollutants off

contaminated tap water in another district

 

 

By Han Xiaojing and Jiang Weichao

 

Lanzhou city in northwest China’s Gansu Province canceled emergency water supply to Anning district at 5 p.m. on Sunday of April 13, as the contaminated tap water was found safe there, local government said.

Crude oil leak from a petrochemical pipeline poisoned the water source for a local water plant and brought hazardous levels of benzene into the city’s tap water on Friday morning, affecting 2.4 million people.

In Anning district, the benzene levels were tested between 7.86 micrograms and 1.12 micrograms per liter of water for eight samples since 1 a.m. Sunday. China’s national limit for benzene in tap water is 10 micrograms per liter.

On Saturday, local government stopped emergency supply of free drinking water to the districts of Chengguan and Qilihe after the environmental monitoring department found no excessive benzene in four tests of samples taken from two downtown surveillance sites of the two districts.

According to Zheng Zhiqiang, deputy head of the investigation team of the incident, the underground poisoned water from the water source will be further tested to confirm the connection between the oil leak and the contaminated tap water.

The tap water contamination caused panic on Friday. Stores and supermarkets ran out of bottled water, and many people complained of thirst.

Fire engines and water sprinklers carried water to downtown communities for emergency supplies, and residents fetched water with pots, basins and buckets until after midnight.

From Thursday evening to early Friday morning, Veolia Water, a Sino-French joint venture and the sole water supplier for urban Lanzhou, found between 118 micrograms and 200 micrograms of benzene per liter of water at their plants.

Benzene is a colorless carcinogenic compound used to manufacture plastics. Benzene is known to damage the human hematopoietic system, which produces blood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on April 14, 2014 

 

 

Lanzhou

 

Tap water crisis ends,

but concerns remain

 

 

By Li Laifang, Yu Junjie, Wang Heng, Bai Liping and Jiang Weichao

 

 

Safe tap water was once again running for 2.4 million residents in a Chinese city on Monday, after tests showed benzene levels in the water met national standards after a pollution incident.

Samples collected every two hours from 7 a.m. on Sunday to 5 a.m. on Monday indicated benzene levels were between 8.47 and zero micrograms per liter of water in Xigu district of Lanzhou City. China’s national limit for benzene in tap water is 10 micrograms per liter.

Safe tap water was running in three other affected districts of Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu Province, on Saturday and Sunday, after tests showed safe levels of the chemical.

Excessive levels of benzene, which were more than ten times higher than national standards, were reported on Friday morning and the city government warned citizens not to drink tap water for 24 hours.

Investigators later found crude oil in soil along a duct between two water plants owned by Veolia Water, a joint Sino-French venture and the sole water supplier for urban Lanzhou.

The spill was initially believed to have leaked from a pipeline owned by Lanzhou Petrochemical, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s largest oil company, according to investigators.

Locals still have doubts about the cause of the pollution and are concerned about tap water safety.

In March, residents in Lanzhou complained to authorities about smelly tap water.

“We immediately carried out tests regarding all drinking quality indices. We found relatively high levels of ammonia and nitrogen but they were under the national limits,” said Tian Hong, director of the water quality monitoring center of Lanzhou Tap Water Company.

The benzene in the tap water was initially judged to have come from pollutants soaking into the underground following previous leakages of Lanzhou Petrochemical, said Wang Jinsheng, a water science professor of Beijing Normal University and one of the investigators for the incident.

According to Zheng Zhiqiang, deputy head of the investigation team, the underground poisoned water from the water source will be further tested to confirm the connection between the oil leak and the contaminated tap water.

The team will investigate various departments and people responsible for the pollution, said Zheng.

The polluted underground ditch had been used for nearly 60 years. In the 1980s, an oil leakage occurred to the chemical pipeline under it, and was used after repairs until now, said Yao Xin, board chairman of Veolia Water.

The construction of an erosion-resistant, iron and steel duct for Veolia Water began on Monday to replace the polluted one and will be completed in ten days, said Feng Legui, an official with an emergency response team for the incident. The construction of a second duct will start soon.

The overuse of underground oil pollutant pipelines in Lanzhou cannot be ignored, said a source, who worked for Lanzhou Petrochemical for 12 years.

Built in the 1950s with a designed lifetime of 50 years, a 50-km-long major pipeline for petrochemical pollutants which traverses the city has been overused for nearly ten years, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

“Problems will arise sooner or later if petrochemical and tap water pipelines are located close to each other,” he said.

The risks of aging oil pipelines near residential areas were highlighted after a pipeline explosion claimed 62 lives in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao last year. Its major cause was corrosion that wore down the pipeline, which was operated by Sinopec, China’s second-biggest oil producer.

Lanzhou Petrochemical can process 10.5 million tonnes of crude oil and produce 700,000 tonnes of ethylene a year. The company is in the upper stretch of the Yangtze River in Lanzhou and is close to the waterway, which is the only water source for the city.

Chemical plants and water sources should not be in the same area, said Wang Jinsheng. In the long run, authorities should search for a second water source area for Lanzhou, he added.

Yu Haiyan, Communist Party chief of Lanzhou, said petrochemical industry areas posed risks for the city’s water supply and authorities should try to find a new source area.

A risk assessment for the petrochemical sector, conducted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection Ministry (MEP) in 2007, listed Lanzhou Petrochemical as highly risky for the environment and a potential threat to drinking water in a number of areas, including Lanzhou and other downstream cities.

More than ten cases of strange smells in tap water have been reported in cities like Jinan, Shanghai and Hangzhou since last year. In some cases, authorities insisted water met national standards.

In Hangzhou, citizens in several districts reported a strange smell in their tap water at the end of last year, but authorities insisted the water was safe until they found that the smell came from a type of chemical from factories.

China adopted a set of compulsory drinking water criteria in July 2012 and the number of indicators increased to 106 from the previous 35.

The country has 250 million residents living close to major polluters or alongside main traffic corridors, and people using unsafe drinking water reaches 280 million, said a report issued by the MEP in March.

China suffers about 1,700 water pollution incidents annually, with 140 million people in cities exposed to unsafe drinking water, government data showed.

Fu Tao, a professor with Tsinghua University on water industry management and policy, said the figures were “alarming”.

“The quality of drinking water sources has seriously deteriorated by various industrial waste and agricultural chemicals,” he said.

The fall in water quality at sources, lack of improvement in water treatment and aging pipelines, means that even tap water from plants meets quality standards, it may not be safe when it reaches people’s homes, he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on April 15, 2014

 

 

 Tap water company denies pollution cover-up 

By Li Laifang, Jiang Weichao and Bai Liping 

The tap water supplier at the center of a scandal after excessive levels of a carcinogenic compound were found in its samples has denied a cover-up of the contamination.

Excessive levels of benzene in the water affected more than 2.4 million people in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu Province, provincial authorities said on Friday.

The supplier, the Lanzhou Veolia Water Company, collected water samples on April 2 and found abnormal levels of benzene during analysis on Thursday, said Yan Xiaotao, deputy general manager of the Sino-French joint venture.

The excess of benzene was confirmed by further tests at 3 p.m. on Thursday and the company reported the situation to the Lanzhou municipal government at 5 a.m. Friday, Yan said.

There was no late reporting or cover-up. The government investigation results would have the final say, he told reporters on Monday afternoon.

Despite this, six residents in Lanzhou filed lawsuits to local courts on Monday, demanding an apology and compensations from Lanzhou Veolia.

Five of them jointly filed a lawsuit against the company to the Lanzhou Intermediate People’s Court. In the indictment, they alleged the company only cut water supply 18 hours after finding the benzene problem.

During this period, polluted tap water flowed into thousands of households and the plaintiffs drank it and their health suffered, they claim.

They alleged the pollution caused panic and seriously disturbed their lives, demanding the defendant compensate them for the money they spent buying bottled water and for their work delays. They also asked for an apology to be printed in newspapers.

The court rejected the petition, saying it was not in line with laws and regulations.

Separately, a citizen surnamed Li filed a similar petition against Lanzhou Veolia to the Xigu District People’s Court. Li demanded the company provide authoritative data on water quality tests for almost the past year and free medical checkups for his family members, said Wu Tianying, lawyer for Li.

Li demanded an apology be published in national media and one yuan in compensation for his mental suffering. Wu told Xinhua the court received the petition on Monday afternoon.

Ninety-four households near the polluted area will be displaced in the coming three days, said the local government.

A temporary clinic set up by the Gansu People’s Hospital to handle citizens suspecting benzene poisoning has received nearly 300 consulting patients as of Tuesday. But it has uncovered no poisoning cases.

From 5 p.m. on Thursday to 2 a.m. on Friday, Lanzhou Veolia’s tests found benzene levels were 118 to 200 micrograms per liter of tap water in its plants, far higher than the country’s limit of 10 micrograms.

The municipal government then warned citizens not to drink tap water from 11 a.m. on Friday to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

China began to adopt compulsory drinking water criteria in July 2012 and the number of indicators increased to 106 from the previous 35. Comprehensive quality tests for tap water are required to be conducted every six months, while daily tests do not include checks for benzene.

Lanzhou Veolia conducted comprehensive tests for all the 106 items for tap water in Lanzhou in accordance with the country’s regulations in early March after a strange smell was reported in tap water, said Yan, the joint venture’s deputy general manager.

All the indicators met standards and further tests by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found the smell came from decaying grass roots and algae in the source river, he said.

The company is in charge of conducting comprehensive tests for other cities in Gansu and it just incidentally tested tap water in Lanzhou while doing the tests for other places, Yan added.

Tap water supply fully resumed in Lanzhou on Monday.

Lanzhou Veolia is a joint venture established in 2007, with Veolia Water owning 45 percent of its shares and the local government 55 percent. It supplies water to 2.4 million people in four districts of downtown Lanzhou, which has a total population of more than 3.6 million.

Benzene is a colorless carcinogenic compound used to manufacture plastics. The chemical is known to damage the human hematopoietic system, which produces blood.

The pollutants were initially believed to have leaked from a pipeline of Lanzhou Petrochemical, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s largest oil company, said investigators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Lanzhou to explore second water source after crisis

By Han Xiaojing, Jiang Weichao and Bai Liping

Local authorities of Lanzhou City in soHuthwest China’s Gansu Province admitted on Tuesday afternoon a lack of regulatory supervision led to a tap water crisis, and pledged to find a second water source for the city as soon as possible.

Excessive levels of benzene in the water affected more than 2.4 million people in Lanzhou from last Friday to Monday.

Lanzhou is the only provincial capital in China without a second water source, said Wang Ning, the spokesman of the emergency response team of the case at a press conference on Tuesday.

The city will start the construction of a second water source soon to ensure water security, Wang said.

Earlier, the tap water supplier Lanzhou Veolia Water Company, a Sino-French joint venture has denied a cover-up of the contamination after excessive levels of a carcinogenic compound were found in its samples.

The supplier collected water samples on April 2 and found abnormal levels of benzene during analysis on Thursday, said Yan Xiaotao, deputy general manager of the Sino-French joint venture.

The excess of benzene was confirmed by further tests at 3 p.m. on Thursday and the company reported the situation to the Lanzhou municipal government at 5 a.m. Friday, Yan said.

There was no late reporting or cover-up, Yan told reporters on Monday afternoon.

However, Wang said there was lack of supervision from the local government after foreign capital was introduced to Lanzhou water supply company in 2006, and they would learn lessons and prevent similar things from happening again.

On Monday, six residents in Lanzhou filed lawsuits to local courts, demanding an apology and compensations from Lanzhou Veolia.

Five of them jointly filed a lawsuit against the company to the Lanzhou Intermediate People’s Court. In the indictment, they alleged the company only cut water supply 18 hours after finding the benzene problem.

During this period, polluted tap water flowed into thousands of households and the plaintiffs drank it and their health suffered, they claim.

They alleged the pollution caused panic and seriously disturbed their lives, demanding the defendant compensate them for the money they spent buying bottled water and for their work delays. They also asked for an apology to be printed in newspapers.

The court rejected the petition, saying it was not in line with laws and regulations.

Separately, a citizen surnamed Li filed a similar petition against Lanzhou Veolia to the Xigu District People’s Court. Li demanded the company provide authoritative data on water quality tests for almost the past year and free medical checkups for his family members, said Wu Tianying, lawyer for Li.

Li demanded an apology be published in national media and one yuan in compensation for his mental suffering. Wu told Xinhua the court received the petition on Monday afternoon.

Ninety-four households near the polluted area will be displaced in the coming three days, said the local government.

A temporary clinic set up by the Gansu People’s Hospital to handle citizens suspecting benzene poisoning has received nearly 300 consulting patients as of Tuesday. But it has uncovered no poisoning cases.

From 5 p.m. on Thursday to 2 a.m. on Friday, Lanzhou Veolia’s tests found benzene levels were 118 to 200 micrograms per liter of tap water in its plants, far higher than the country’s limit of 10 micrograms.

The municipal government then warned citizens not to drink tap water from 11 a.m. on Friday to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

China began to adopt compulsory drinking water criteria in July 2012 and the number of indicators increased to 106 from the previous 35. Comprehensive quality tests for tap water are required to be conducted every six months, while daily tests do not include checks for benzene.

Lanzhou Veolia conducted comprehensive tests for all the 106 items for tap water in Lanzhou in accordance with the country’s regulations in early March after a strange smell was reported in tap water, said Yan, the joint venture’s deputy general manager.

All the indicators met standards and further tests by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found the smell came from decaying grass roots and algae in the source river, he said.

The company is in charge of conducting comprehensive tests for other cities in Gansu and it just incidentally tested tap water in Lanzhou while doing the tests for other places, Yan added.

Tap water supply fully resumed in Lanzhou on Monday.

Lanzhou Veolia is a joint venture with Veolia Water owning 45 percent of its shares and the local government 55 percent. It supplies water to 2.4 million people in four districts of downtown Lanzhou, which has a total population of more than 3.6 million.

Benzene is a colorless carcinogenic compound used to manufacture plastics. The chemical is known to damage the human hematopoietic system, which produces blood.

The pollutants were initially believed to have leaked from a pipeline of Lanzhou Petrochemical, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s largest oil company, said investigators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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