Residents blame lake crisis on officials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2007, 12:00am

Algae blooms in city's water source after authorities fail to act, say locals

While authorities yesterday tried to deal with a tap-water crisis in Wuxi , Jiangsu , residents were quick to blame them for failing to deal with pollution problems leading up to the incident.

Few took at face value government assurances that their tap water was safe to drink.

An official circular said tap water met all quality indices except for smell, which was hard to remedy at the moment.

But householders across the city besieged supermarkets to buy bottled water for daily cooking, drinking and dishwashing.

Zhou Yuefen , who is in her 50s, had three 18-litre bottles of water stored in her house in the Wuxi suburbs.

She said her tap water not only stank, it turned yellow after lying in a basin for several hours.

'Since Tuesday the tap water has smelled badly,' Ms Zhou said. 'Even after washing for some seconds, my hands still smell for a long time and the stink fills up the whole room.'

She said she did not feel reassured by government statements that the water was safe to drink. 'They say we can boil the tap water to drink but it stinks more after it's boiled.'

Ms Zhou said she had lived in the city all her life and there had been several algae outbreaks in the past decade, but none was as serious as this one. 'Previously, water smelled for just several hours, and did not smell to such extent,' she said.

She said the government should have tackled the Tai Lake pollution many years ago, instead of trying to solve the problem when it became extremely serious.

At an inner-city Carrefour store, dozens of people queued up for the bottled water. An elderly couple loading four boxes of bottled water on to a bicycle in front of the supermarket said they had waited for two hours to get the water.

'We dare not drink the tap water,' the woman said. 'Buying water is not convenient for us because we are in poor health.'

Younger couples said they had switched to eating fast food to avoid cooking at home and had given up bathing every day.

The smell from Tai Lake was apparent from a kilometre away, as the algae continued to coat the water's surface in a thick mat yesterday.

Wuxi Daily's coverage of the issue focused on officials inspecting waterworks and giving instructions to accelerate the water cleanup.

Biologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggested months ago that millions of chub fish be released into the lake to alleviate the algae problem, Xinhua reported.

Ma Jun , a water resources researcher, said the Wuxi government's measures, including channelling more water from the Yangtze River and local streams to flow into Tai Lake, were a short-term solution and have only had a limited result. He said a long time was needed to eradicate the stink because of the large scale and intensity of the algae bloom.

'The local government attracted rapid investment but failed to control the pollution,' he said.