Sat, Dec 10, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Chinese chemical plants receive urgent inspections

AP , BEIJING

China's environmental watchdog has ordered emergency inspections of riverside chemical plants and other potential polluters following a toxic spill last month that disrupted water supplies to millions and strained relations with Moscow, state media said yesterday.

The China Daily newspaper said the nationwide inspections, ordered on Thursday by the State Environmental Protection Administration, would focus on large and medium sized enterprises along major rivers and their tributaries.

The safety crackdown is part of a campaign by Beijing to reverse the damage done by a Nov. 13 chemical spill, which has turned into an environmental and public relations catastrophe for China's leadership.

The inspections are expected to last until the end of next month, the report said. Local governments have also been ordered to hammer out contingency plans for potential disasters, it said.

The chemical plant blast in the northeastern city of Jilin dumped around 90 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene and related compounds into the Songhua River. The government didn't announce that the river had been poisoned until 10 days later on Nov. 23 -- hours after Harbin was forced to shut down running water to 3.8 million people.

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