(Corrects company name in paragraph 1)
BEIJING, April 23 The chairman of the Chinese
unit of French utility Veolia Environnement has
apologised to the public after a cancer-inducing chemical was
found in tap water supplied by the company, the Xinhua news
Benzene was found in tap water supplied by the Lanzhou
Veolia Water Company in the northwestern city of Lanzhou on
April 10, forcing the city of 3.6 million people to turn off
supplies in one district. Other residents were warned not to
drink tap water for a day.
Last week, China blamed Veolia for failing to maintain water
quality. Veolia said it was not responsible for polluting the
tap water with benzene.
Yao Xin, chairman of Lanzhou Veolia Water Company "bowed and
expressed his apology" at a news conference organised by the
government of Lanzhou, the Xinhua state news agency said late on
Yao said the reason he had not apologised sooner "was that
he and all his staff had been putting all their energy into
identifying the cause of the contamination and building new
Justine Shui, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Veolia Water
China, said by email it was "absolutely normal for the chairman
of (the) joint venture to apologise to the customers for the
She said the joint venture "does not manufacture or store
benzene and fully trusts the Chinese authorities to find the
origin of the benzene".
The government has blamed a crude oil leak from a pipeline
owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp for the benzene
in the city's water. The city's water supply is now back to
The government has not said whether it has opened an
investigation into CNPC. PetroChina , the
listed unit of CNPC, has denied media reports that it was to
blame for the leak.
Lanzhou, a heavily industrialised city in Gansu province,
ranks among China's most polluted population centres.
The Lanzhou government's complaints come amid increasing
scrutiny of foreign companies by Chinese state media. The
government and state media have taken a series of firms to task
on issues ranging from pricing to complaints of poor quality
products and shoddy customer service.
Lanzhou Veolia Water Co is majority-owned by the Lanzhou
city government, with Veolia's China subsidiary holding a 45
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Robert Birsel)