Fears about Songhua settled

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Following an explosion in November of 2005, China's Songhua river was contaminated with nitrobenzene and similar chemicals. Its clean-up by The State Environmental Protection Administration and others was covered previously on Wikinews.

The State Environmental Protection Administration Minister Zhou Shengxian has said that "The water quality of the Songhua River will not exceed national standards on a large scale during the spring thaw, and fish in the river and from pounds along the banks are safe to eat." Zhou further guaranteed that livestock near the river banks and products from such livestock to be safe to eat, and that the growth of crops will not be inhibited by use of water from the Songhua River for irrigation.

Concerns of residents that the possible release of remnants of nitrobenzene that may have been trapped in the ice and in the sediment might occur and endanger the safe utilization of the river after the influence of a period of being frozen have been settled.

Zhou said that research indicated only a small amounts of the toxic chemical within the ice and that the quantity that could be entrapped in the sediment was limited by its structure as composed mostly of sand. These characteristics and the inevitable high flow rate of the river once the winter's ice melts in the spring will allow the water to be safe said Zhou, referencing an interim assessment of the river spill done by a consortium which began the assessment on December 13 2005.

Chen Jining of Tsinghua University's Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, commented that "Even in the rare cases when levels are beyond standards in some places, we also have the technology in place for example, activated carbon to ensure safe drinking water supplies."

Zhou has also stated that the joint program with Russia to monitor boundary rivers will continue. The front of the pollution from the explosion has been predicted to reach the estuary of the Armur river in Russia near the end of January 2006.