(Adds no comment from Veolia)
BEIJING, April 14 A Chinese government team will
probe a local unit of French firm Veolia Environnement
suspected of delaying reporting water contamination which
affected supplies in a major northwestern city, state radio said
Levels of benzene, a cancer-inducing chemical, in Lanzhou's
tap water rose 20 times above national safety levels on Friday,
forcing the city to turn off supplies in one district and warn
other residents not to drink tap water for the next 24 hours.
The water supply company, Lanzhou Veolia Water Co, is
majority-owned by the city government, with Veolia China, a unit
of Veolia Environnement, holding a 45 percent stake.
The government has already blamed a crude oil leak from a
pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp for
the presence of benzene.
Veolia said it could not comment and referred to local
authorities, which are leading the investigation.
State radio said on its website that Veolia had discovered
the benzene spike on Thursday afternoon, but only reported it to
the city government the next morning.
Zheng Zhiqiang, deputy head of the government investigation
team, was quoted as saying "the investigation team's next job"
was to look at whether Veolia's actions were in accordance with
"We must verify and get evidence from relevant departments
and people, including Veolia, about the discovery, reporting and
handling situation of the benzene incident," Zheng said,
according to state radio.
Lanzhou city authorities said on Friday they found 200
micrograms of benzene per litre of water. The national safety
standard is 10 micrograms.
According to Xinhua, investigators found crude oil in soil
along a duct between two waterworks owned by Veolia.
Lanzhou, a heavily industrialised city of 3.6 million people
in the northwestern province of Gansu, ranks among China's most
China has repeatedly vowed to improve the monitoring and
timely release of information about pollution.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Geert De
Clercq; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Potter)