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Hebei residents rush to buy mineral water after toxic chemical leak

China's Handan city has switched off the water supply in some areas after an upstream chemical plant leaked 8.7 tonnes of toxic aniline.

Just barely into the new year, Hubei residents of Handan City are racing to buy mineral water. 

At a press conference, Caijing magazine was informed that the origin of the Zhuozhang river contamination stemmed from an aniline leak in Shanxi Province, Lu’an City, at the Tianji Coal Chemical Plant. The damage has spread throughout the river basin of 80 km, which includes 2 cities and 28 villages. Polluted water has also spread to Hebei and Henan provinces, as well as downstream areas like Anyang and Handan. 
 
According to reports by the People’s Daily, after preliminary inspections, the amount of leakage totals about 8.7 tons.  
 
The pollution was discovered on December 31, 2012 but the Shaanxi Provincial Government only reported the accident on January 5.
 
On January 7, the mayor of Changzhi City apologised publicly for the “12.31” aniline accident, saying that the late accident report was due to “an error of judgment,” and that initially the accident was judged as a normal production safety accident which could be easily dealt with. At the press conference, he told Caijing magazine, “Many conclusions can be raised by this incident, and these issues deserve reflection.”
 
But this is not the only accident not immediately reported. According to Caixin online reports, on December 25, China Railway Group, Ltd., is responsible for a tunnel explosion on railway construction that affected central and southern Shanxi. Eight people were killed and five injured. However, the Project Manager Department did not inform relevant departments. The official website of the Shanxi Provincial People’s Government shows that the above information was reported six days later, on December 31.
 
Yang Minglin, China’s Environmental Society Director, explained: “I believe that the Changzhi aniline accident is not intentionally covered up. However, that the company and local government believed it to be merely a safety accident, I simply cannot believe that. The mayor claims there were three ‘unknowns’ – not knowing the company well enough, insufficient estimations, and poor judgment – that are all initial mistakes. But really, this is the result of not paying attention to environmental protection, even lacking simple common sense. This kind of business – run by the company, managed by the company – this is not only a fluke.”

 

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