Cleanup efforts going on to control coal tar contaminated river Friday, June 16, 2006

A dozen fire engines were sent from Baoding, a city in north China's Hebei Province, to 8.5 km downstream the site of a coal tar spill to pump contaminated water from the Dasha River.

The polluted water will be pooled and treated in a closed environment, said an official with the environmental protection bureau of Baoding City in an interview with Xinhua on Friday.

According to the official, most of the pollutants, primarily phenol, are concentrated within 20 km upstream the first dam built inside Hebei Province on the Dasha River.

A truck carrying 60 tons of coal tar overturned near Dazhaikou Village of Shentangbao, Fanshi County in Shanxi Province, around 5p.m. on Monday and spilled its entire load into the Dasha River, which originates from Shanxi, passes through Fuping County, Hebei Province and empties into Wangkuai Reservoir, 30 km downstream Fuping County seat.

The contaminated stretch entered Fuping on the lower reaches by Tuesday morning. It moves at about one kilometer per hour, and by 8 a. m. on Friday, was still 27 km away from the county seat of Fuping.

Cleanup workers have built 51 dams by Thursday along the Dasha River to intercept the spill of 60 tons of coal tar amid measures to minimize pollution threat on a downstream reservoir.

The 51 dams, including 42 in Fanshi and nine in Fuping, were built to slow down water flow, so as to win time for treating polluted water. Cleanup workers also dug holes in the ground near the river and diverted spill into them.

Cotton batting, sponge and straw were trucked in to absorb the coal tar in the Dasha River. Activated carbon were also put into the river to absorb the huge amounts of pollutants, said local government sources from Fanshi and Fuping counties.

The rescue headquarters began on Thursday afternoon to put in place a 15-kilometer-long pipes to carry clean water downstream, in a bid to ensure residents downstream to have access to safe drinking water.

Local environmental workers find, based on water samples obtained on a daily basis, the rive water between the first and the second dams inside Hebei, is the worst polluted, with phenol 100 times above the standard.

Monitoring data about pollution of the water obtained from the ninth dam downstream is being processed and will soon be released.

Wangkuai is one of two key reservoirs that supplies water to the city of Baoding which has a population of more than 10 million urban and rural residents.

So far, there have been no reports about people being sickened by the contaminated water, thanks to prompt disaster-relief measures by local governments.

The truck driver has been detained by police.

24 dams to intercept 60-ton coal tar in Hebei
Coal tar contaminates river in Hebei, clean-up in full swing
Editor: Ling Zhu
Source: Xinhua