Thu, Aug 05, 2010 - Page 5 News List

China warns of tap water

REUTERS AND AFP , BEIJING

A town of 50,000 people in China’s export hub has warned residents not to drink tap water after finding manganese contamination, local media said, the latest in a string of mass heavy metal poisonings to hit industrial areas.

There was a rush on plastic buckets in the largely rural area of southern Guangdong Province, as residents turned to mountain springs for water instead, the Southern Metropolis Daily said.

Manganese levels in tap water from Daan water company, one of the only two water providers in the mountainous area, are 12 times safe limits, the paper said.

“As water quality cannot meet standards, please stop drinking the tap water,” the newspaper cited a government announcement posted in the town as saying, but added that water had not been cut off.

Manganese poisoning affects the nervous system, and can cause slow responses and behavioral change.

Officials are perplexed by the contamination, discovered during checks by epidemic prevention officials, the report said.

There are no manganese mines or processing companies near Luohe, the source of Daan’s water, the newspaper said, and no record of manganese poisoning there in recent decades. An investigation has not yet thrown any light on the issue.

The report did not say why the initial checks were made and reporters’ calls to town offices went unanswered yesterday.

The other local water works, which shares the same water source with Daan company, is now being tested, but the result has not been published, senior town official Huang Zhenhu said.

“If water there also have quality problems, we may need support from water works from big cities nearby,” he told the newspaper.

Daan residents are unsure when running water will return, and in the meantime worry that the heavy reliance on springs could dry them up and leave no water supply at all, the report said.

Meanwhile, the number of people killed or missing in devastating floods across China so far this year has risen to nearly 1,700, the government said yesterday.

“So far this year, 140 million people have been impacted in 28 flood-hit provinces, 1,072 have been killed and 619 people are missing,” Shu Qingpeng, spokesman for China’s flood control headquarters, said in an online briefing.

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