Wuhan water plants cleared to reopen after quality failure

Updated: 2014-04-25 01:30

By Liu Kun in Wuhan and Yang Yang in Beijing (China Daily)

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More than 300,000 people in Wuhan, Hubei province, have been struggling to find sufficient safe water, even though three water plants that were closed resumed supplying water on Thursday.

Zhao Jianguo, spokesman for the Wuhan Environmental Protection Bureau, confirmed that the three water plants had been shut down because of excessive levels of ammonia-nitrogen.

Local authorities who monitor water quality in the Hanjiang River, a major source of water for the megacity of 10 million, found it polluted with the chemical on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the water plants were closed when the chemical was found at their gates, although authorities said no abnormal amount was found in pipes servicing residents' homes.

Still, more than 300,000 people who relied on the plants were switched to water from other plants. Subsequent supplies were intermittent, stopping periodically because of unstable pressures in the pipelines, authorities said.

In residential areas, people carried containers outside, waiting in line for water from public pipes that normally supply water for landscaping and other non-potable uses.

The water residents collected could be used for some household purposes, though not for cooking or drinking without treatment.

Many are buying more bottled water.

An elderly woman in Dongxihu district, who gave her family name as Li, said she would not drink tap water nor use it for cooking because she didn't trust it.

Zhang Quan, owner of a store in Li's community, said sales of water had been very good since Wednesday, as people bought multiple packs of bottled water.

When ammonia-nitrogen concentrations reach 0.75 milligrams per cubic meter, people can taste it, and if the figure surpasses 1.0, people can smell it, said Gong Jie, chief physician at the Wuhan Center For Disease Control and Prevention.

Wuhan's reading on Tuesday was 1.59 milligrams per cubic meter.

Many residents worried after learning that the water suspensions were related to pollution found in the Hanjiang River.

Zhao of the environmental protection bureau said the cause has not yet been identified. A preliminary investigation showed that pollutants could have entered the channel upstream.

In early April, water delivery to four districts in Lanzhou, Gansu province, was suspended for four days after two water pipelines were contaminated by nearby oil and chemical substances.

From January to March, there were at least 10 incidents related to water quality in which tap water was found with an unusual odor, Beijing-based Oriental Outlook magazine reported.

Contact the writers at yangyangs@chinadaily.com.cn and liukun@chinadaily.com.cn