(Adds CNPC comment)
* China blames pollution on supervision problem
* CNPC unit PetroChina denies it is to blame for the leak
By Sui-Lee Wee
BEIJING, April 16 China has blamed French
utility Veolia Environnement for "supervision problems"
in its water quality standards after authorities said a
cancer-inducing chemical had been found in tap water supplied by
the firm at 20 times above national safety levels, state media
said on Wednesday.
The reading of benzene in the tap water in the northwestern
city of Lanzhou was taken 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.
Lanzhou, a heavily industrialised city of 3.6 million people
in the northwestern province of Gansu, ranks among China's most
polluted population centres.
Investigators looking into the incident found "there were
supervision problems within Veolia Water Company related to
water quality and safety", China National Radio said on its
website, quoting a Lanzhou government spokesman speaking at a
news conference. The spokesman did not elaborate.
The Lanzhou government and executives from Lanzhou Veolia
Water Co, a local unit of Veolia, could not be reached for
comment. Veolia France was not available for comment.
The Lanzhou government's complaints come on the back of
rising 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 alleged poor quality products
and shoddy customer service.
Lanzhou Veolia Water Company's deputy general manager, Yan
Xiaotao, said there was no late reporting of the benzene spike
or cover-up, Xinhua reported. 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.
The Chinese government has not said whether it has opened an
investigation into CNPC. PetroChina, the listed unit of CNPC,
has denied media reports that it is to blame for the leak.
A PetroChina official, who declined to be named due to the
sensitivity of the matter, said the company had been cooperating
with the investigations.
"The investigations showed that there is no
PetroChina-operated pipelines that are close to the tap water
production areas, no leaks were found, and no abnormal
emissions," the official said. "All PetroChina facilities are
(Additional reporting by Li Hui, Chen Aizhu and Geert De
Clercq; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)