BEIJING, April 11 China's western city of
Lanzhou saw a rush for supermarket bottled water on Friday after
authorities said the city's drinking water contained levels of
benzene, a cancer-inducing chemical, standing at 20 times above
national safety levels.
With Beijing having identified the environment as one of its
top priorities after years of unfettered economic growth, the
government has struggled to make local governments and
industries comply with laws.
Lanzhou, a heavily-industrialised city of 3.6 million people
in Gansu province, ranks among China's most polluted cities.
The government found 200 micrograms of benzene per litre of
water, it said, triggering the rush to stock up on bottled
water. The national safety standard is 10 micrograms per litre.
Water supply was turned off in one city district, and the
government warned citizens not to drink the city's water for the
next 24 hours.
"Lanzhou has shut down the contaminated water supply pipe
and deployed activated carbon to absorb the benzene," the
government said in a statement.
Activated carbon has small pores that enable it to absorb
Preliminary inspection showed the benzene came from nearby
chemical factories, the local government said on its website,
although no culprit was named. The environmental bureau is
carrying out further investigations.
The water supply company is majority-owned by the local city
government, with British firm Veolia Water, a unit of French
firm Veolia Environnement, holding a 45-percent stake.
(Reporting by Stian Reklev and Kathy Chen; Editing by Clarence