Sewage dumping disrupts water supply in China city

BEIJING Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:38am EST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - About 50,000 residents in a southern Chinese city had their water supplies disrupted after a fish farm discharged sewage into the local water source, state media said Sunday, in the country's latest pollution incident.

Authorities in Foshan city, an industrial part of export- dependent Guangdong province close to Hong Kong, discovered the problem Saturday and immediately stopped taking water from the stream, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Initial investigations showed the aquatic farm ... had discharged waste water into the stream," it said.

The part of the city affected has since taken measures to make up for the lost supply, and as of Sunday the number of people facing disruption had come down to around 1,000 people, Xinhua added.

Pollution, especially when it threatens relatively prosperous urban citizens, is a growing source of concern for Chinese people and has even sparked protests, a major worry for the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

In 2005, a chemical explosion sent an 80-km long benzene slick flowing along the Songhua River, forcing tap water to be suspended in cities in Northeast China and Russia in the dead of winter. The accident was initially covered up.

In recent weeks, two water disasters have come to public attention -- waste from metal processing plants sent cadmium levels soaring in the Longjiang river, which ultimately flows into the heavily populated Pearl River Delta, and a South Korean chemicals barge sank in the Yangtze River, releasing phenol that caused tap water to smell strange in the city of Zhenjiang.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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