Taps shut in central China due to red, bubbly river

BEIJING (Reuters) - A spill on the Hanjiang River, in central China’s Hubei Province, has affected water supply for 200,000 people living along three tributaries since Sunday, the Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday, citing local media.

The water became “red with large amounts of bubbles,” Xinhua said, citing Gao Qijin, head of Xingou Township Tap Water Company in Jianli County, which is along the Dongjing River, one of the affected tributaries.

Water supply has been cut for about 60,000 residents in the town, who are relying on bottled water. Five schools also have stopped classes.

The environmental protection authorities were investigating the source of the contamination, Xinhua said.

Meanwhile, in southeastern China’s Yunnan Province, police have detained a farmer whose homemade fertilizer contaminated the drinking water of 9,000 people and killed 20 tonnes of fish in a fishery last week, Xinhua said.

The villager, Zhou Shunfu, dumped 120 tonnes of waste residue with phosphor onto his own fields, thinking that it could be used as fertilizer, and wiped out a neighbor’s fish farm.

After a string of well-publicized cases of water pollution, China is moving to crack down on industrial polluters. It is debating a draft law to fine the heads of companies that foul water, and contemplating ending tax breaks for polluting exporters

But accidents and careless use of chemicals still poses a grave hazard, especially in smaller towns.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby