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Harbin Water Pollution


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Is a "New Harbin" going to happen in Chongqing?


Doesn't look too bad from this article, but other sources tell me benzene is involved again. So who knows?

To the people who are in Harbin right now: What is the 老百姓 thinking about the government telling them the water was shut of first because of scheduled maintenance work, later because of an earthquake and now because of the explosion? I don't think what I'd do, but sure enough I would lose confidence in my government.

I saw this Chinese lady on TV who said that at first she was worried, but now the news are telling her that everything will be alright, so she’s not too worried anymore. Weird, eh?

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Actually what happened in Harbin has been repeated for dozen times over the years.

Whenever a crisis comes, i.e. SARS, avian flu, AIDS, coal mine disaster,...etc., the local officials first try to cover-up, then lie and if anny media dares reporting it, the local officlals right away badmouth them as rumor-mongering.

When the crisis is out of proportion and brings coverage from HK and foreign media, then Beijing will know (sadly Beijing may not know the seriousness of the crisis earlier than we do), then order from the top force these local officials to change their tone and address thhe problem.

But during the process, valuable time has been lost for remedy.

And I bet in the minds of these local officials, they blame the HK/foreign media for making such fuss!

And next time when another crisis comes, they still cover-up.

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Whenever a crisis comes, i.e. SARS, avian flu, AIDS, coal mine disaster,...etc., the local officials first try to cover-up, then lie and if anny media dares reporting it, the local officlals right away badmouth them as rumor-mongering.

When the crisis is out of proportion and brings coverage from HK and foreign media, then Beijing will know (sadly Beijing may not know the seriousness of the crisis earlier than we do), then order from the top force these local officials to change their tone and address thhe problem.

But during the process, valuable time has been lost for remedy.

Strange behaviour. And will they ever learn? And does this happen in China only?

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just to provide an update.... nobody is going crazy. I think it has been quite impressive the fact that things here do seem completely normal.

no, train tickets are not sold out. no, you can still buy airplane tickets. try yourself. I walked right up to the office to go to beijing for the weekend and said "what day can I get to beijing? any kind of ticket- seat, hard sleeper, soft sleeper, slow train, fast train - anything!" and they're like "well, you can get any kind of ticket, on any kind of train, at any time. so what do you want? seriously. I also looked into tickets on Tuesday, and it was the same deal. most people in harbin that I know aren't evacuating, but rather living their lives and getting their work done.

not taking a shower for four days may not be the most convenient thing in the world, but go to like, mongolia for example, and you'll find yourself not taking a shower for a whole month. everyone will survive, I promise.

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Good article on the political maneuvering behind the crisis.

Some excerpts:


双苯厂爆炸当天松花江就被污 吉林市一度隐瞒实情

(2005-11-26 06:40:29)








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They had a good chance to prove they're an effective gov't who cares people. But they just blew it. Things turned out to be, if you're not, how can you prove? The event only proves that they're ^%$%[email protected] liars. If they didn't lie, I'd praise Harbin city for their shut down desicion and the efforts of keeping water supply.

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Sounds like a repeat of the SARS cover-up.

But a more open press should stop the cover-up

I agree. If the press gets to report on events at will, free from any control, the government would have no choice but to act responsibly.

That's why Bush immediately took action to repair the PR disaster when the press gave him a bad rap for his inaction on Katrina.

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I guess many people that left Harbin are eager to know how situation is now.

Enough water to buy?

Should they come back or better wait some more days?

Any news on when the water supply will be turned on?

Does the hotels have water?

Any news that could be of value for people that have plans to go to Harbin or return back would surely be appreciated.:)


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the Latest from AP

Water Is Restored in Chinese City


Filed at 6:07 a.m. ET

HARBIN, China (AP) -- Running water was restored to a major Chinese city of 3.8 million on Sunday following a five-day shutdown caused by a chemical spill, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Water supplies resumed in Harbin at 6 p.m., Xinhua said in a short dispatch that gave no further details.

Restoration of service came five hours earlier than scheduled, but it was not immediately clear whether it would continue or whether it was for the whole city.

Xu Guangwei, a spokesman for the Harbin city government, could not confirm the Xinhua report.

Water service had been suspended since Tuesday after authorities feared that the Songhua River had been contaminated by toxins spewed into the water after a Nov. 13 chemical plant explosion.

Xinhua said that the 50-mile long spill had passed through Harbin and that chemicals in the river had fallen back to safe levels. Authorities, however, warned that it was still not safe to drink the water.

''Testing of the water at the water company has reached the standard (for chemical levels), so there is no problem with resuming supplies,'' a spokesman for the propaganda department in Heilongjiang province, where Harbin is located, said early Sunday.

Liu Yurun, general manager for the Harbin Water Group, the city's water utility, said local radio and television stations will broadcast a color-based indicator of water safety over the next few days -- red for unusable, yellow for bathing only and green for drinking.

Work crews were installing more than 1,000 tons of carbon filters at water plants in preparation for treating supplies from the Songhua, according to state media.

In preparation, people lined up for another day in freezing wind holding out buckets and teakettles for water provided free of charge and delivered by truck from wells operated by factories and a beer brewery.

The Harbin disaster began with a Nov. 13 explosion at the chemical plant in Jilin, a city about 120 miles southeast. Five people were killed and 10,000 evacuated.

But it was only last week that the government announced that the Songhua had been poisoned with 100 tons of benzene. The spill is possibly the biggest ever of the chemical, a potentially cancer-causing compound used in making detergents and plastics.

State media have criticized local officials for reacting too slowly and failing to tell the public the truth in a timely manner. Environmentalists have said the government failed to prepare for such a disaster and questioned the decision to allow construction of a plant handling such dangerous materials near important water supplies.

Premier Wen Jiabao promised a full investigation when he visited Harbin on Saturday and told leaders to see that every resident got running water.

Pictures of Wen visiting a water treatment plant and Harbin residents were on the front pages of newspapers in an apparent effort to assure the public of Beijing's concern for their safety.

The spill is an embarrassment to President Hu Jintao's government, which has made a priority of repairing environmental damage from 25 years of sizzling economic growth and of looking after ordinary Chinese.

Also Saturday, the Chinese foreign minister made an unusual public apology to Moscow's ambassador to Beijing for damage caused by the benzene spill, which is flowing toward a city in the Russian Far East.

Officials in Khabarovsk were preparing emergency plans including the possible shutdown of its water system.

A senior Russian official visited the city on Saturday and said its water purification system was being quickly upgraded.

Meanwhile, authorities in southwest China where another chemical plant accident had sparked fears of a second chemical leak said contamination of a nearby river was under control, Xinhua reported Sunday on its Web site.

State media said the blast occurred Thursday in Dianjiang, a county in the Chongqing region, killing one worker. It was first reported on Friday. Schools were closed and about 6,000 people were evacuated.

More than 800 residents and Communist Party members were helping to clean the contaminated portion of the Guixi River using screens made of straw and charcoal, Xinhua said Sunday. Water samples are being tested every four hours, it said.

''The pollution index is going down and the water quality is improving,'' Xinhua said. ''Further spread of pollutants is under control.''

The report did not say what kind of chemicals had tainted the river but said water supplies were safe.

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I am living in Harbin and the water is just coming back.

My chinese friends are saying its fine and not worry, as well as my school.

Most of the Russians have left because of the problem.

The South Koreans are leaving too and there embassy says that the water will not be safe until next April.

I called my embassy(Canada) and they were completely useless and had no idea what to do.

I heard that is not even safe to drink the local beer and as it is made with the polluted water.

Anyone still in Harbin or have any advice on what to do? Im pissed because I just got here, payed my tuition fees and then have this problem. The school wont give me my money back (Heilongjiang Daxue). I dont know whether to shower or not, or eat at any of the local restaurants.

Anyone know any other good cities where they speak good putonghua and have locals as friendly as here? This place is a great place to study, but I feel the long term health risks are not worth it.

Anyone have any advice?

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It's up to your own judgment I think, but I would not hesitate to stay. The chemicals that polluted the river were of a kind that disolve by themselves fairly quickly. Some of it may theoretically be stuck in snow and ice, but if so, they will be released in small quantities into the water as the ice melts, and it is likely that they will disolve before they reach any noticeable concentrations.

Besides, I'm pretty sure the authorities monitor this thing carefully.

But, yes, I would stick to drinking bottled water.

Boiled water is said to be completely safe to drink. The process to boil polluted water is not safe, as the vapor will be polluted, but buying hot tea, soup or boiled water should be safe.

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I'm not sure if boiling the water would make it completely safe to drink. Boiling the water may kill micro-organisms in the water, but can it really neutralize the nitrobenzene and benzene contaminants or cause them to evaporate in sufficient quantity? I would ask a qualified chemist who's not beholden to the authorities before imbibing.

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Googling a little shows that Harbin Daily apparently does not trust polluted water after boiling. I wish I could find the source that said it was safe, but I cannot. It would depend on the concentration and for how long you boiled it of course.

Update: Found the source. Unfortunately it is in Swedish: http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=148&a=492627

It is an interview with the "toxicologist" Bert-Ove Lund at the official "chemical inspection (institute)".

The relevant passage in Swedish:

"Bensen är väldigt flyktigt, så kokning är ett väldigt effektivt sätt att få bort det från vattnet. Men då får man vara försiktig så att man inte andas in det när det förångas."

which means more or less

"Benzene is very volatile, so boiling is a very efficient way to remove it from water. But one has to be careful not to breath in the evaporated benzene."

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