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Jiamusi's Tap Water Cut Off

The city government of Jiamusi in Heilongjiang Province yesterday banned the use of water from the Songhua River and cut off its tap water, though the approaching benzene and nitrobenzene slick was described by China Daily as still being some distance away.

A prominent warning was posted on a board along the riverbank at the city's famous Songhua Square forbidding water from being drawn from it for industrial or household use, as well as banning fishing, swimming or taking ice from it.

Sand will also not be permitted to be taken from within 100 meters of the riverbank.

The slick forced Harbin, 350 kilometers upstream, to cut its water supply off for five days two weeks ago.

Jiamusi's 550,000 urban residents were reported by China Daily today to be calm about the approaching contamination, which is expected to arrive at noon tomorrow.

The 300 households of Liushu Island, which occupies 10 square kilometers in the middle of the river, have been asked to move as Li Haitao, Jiamusi's mayor, warned that pollutants are likely to form sediment resulting in long-term contamination of drinking water there.

Wang Xianjia, the head of one of the three villages affected, said only about 80 people from 26 households, mainly children and elders, had moved and that 202 were staying put.

"They have livestock and harvested grain to look after," said Wang, adding that though the government had ordered that no wells be used, those who have stayed have stored enough water.

Heilongjiang Provincial Environment Protection Bureau said 17 checking stations have been set up along the river, which are monitoring water quality around the clock, and that it reports daily to Russian authorities to help them prepare for the slick's arrival there.

The contamination of the river took place after a blast at a chemical plant in neighboring Jilin Province on November 13.

(China Daily December 5, 2005)

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