Sinopec oil pipeline leak cuts off water supplies in China

BEIJING Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:16am EST

A Sinopec sign displayed at its gas station is seen behind a Chinese New Year lantern installation in Hong Kong February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A Sinopec sign displayed at its gas station is seen behind a Chinese New Year lantern installation in Hong Kong February 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Local authorities shut off tap water in Yongxiu County, in Jiangxi Province along the Yangtze River valley, after a leak at an oil products pipeline run by a subsidiary of Sinopec, one of China's two top oil companies, the Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

Water supplies to about 60,000 people were shut after a local water utility saw surface oil floating near its intake on the Liaohe river, Xinhua said, citing the local environmental protection agency.

The oil products pipeline runs from the river port of Jiujiang to Zhangshu, in the southern part of Jiangxi province. The pipeline has also been turned off, Xinhua said.

Industrial water pollution is a recurring problem for growing Chinese cities in need of clean drinking water. Early this year, drinking water in the northern industrial city of Handan was cut off following a chemical spill in a city upstream five days before.

In 2005, an explosion at a petrochemical plant in northeastern China released a benzene slick 80 kilometers long into the Songhua River, that polluted drinking water for cities throughout Northeast China and Siberia.

The extent of that spill was not acknowledged until a week later, in a case that spurred China to allow greater public transparency of environmental issues.

(Reporting By Lucy Hornby; editing by James Jukwey)

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