Agent used to melt snow poisons Guangdong water sources: report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am

Thousands of victims of the snowstorms in northern Guangdong province are now facing another problem - a lack of clean drinking water caused by serious contamination, local media has reported.

About 10,000 residents of Shaoguan , the area of the province most stricken by the disaster, were facing a drinking water shortage as sources had been contaminated by melting snow, the Yangcheng Evening News reported.

After Shaoguan had been hit by its fiercest snowstorms in 50 years, the authorities ordered that more than 600 tonnes of a snow-melting agent containing industrial salt be put on expressways to thaw heavy snow and ice before the peak Lunar New Year travel period, China News Service reported.

The run-off entered the water sources of local villages located near the expressways, leading to the contamination.

The report said at least 4,500 residents of Hongguang, Daqiao and Kesuxia villages in Shaoguan's Ruyuan county, had been affected by the pollution, with some running a fever or vomiting after drinking polluted water.

Villagers complained that the water had also been polluted by litter thrown by drivers and passengers stranded by the storms since mid-January.

They said the water contamination had taken a great toll on their daily lives.

'Meals cooked with the water are too salty to eat,' a resident of Hongguang village was quoted as saying.

'You can find a white residue on pans after cooking with it.'

Affected residents said they were afraid to give the water to their animals, or even use it to wash clothes or for bathing. They had to walk for about half an hour to a nearby mountain to obtain fresh water.

The report said local officials had started seeking alternative water resources, worrying that similar contamination might occur in other parts of Shaoguan.

But officials in Ruyuan yesterday denied reports of pollution.

'The government sent teams to check water sources around the Ruyuan section of the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway,' an official from the Ruyuan government said.

'The chloride level of the water source is still safe for drinking.

'Some water sources are not as clean as usual because of a large amount of daily rubbish left by stranded passengers. But the reports that said thousands of people had been poisoned are untrue.'

Guangdong has been suffering from serious water pollution in recent years.

According to the 2006 Report on the State of the Guangdong Provincial Environment, the quality rating of drinking water sources in the province stood at 89.4 per cent that year. The rating dropped to 84.3 per cent in the first quarter of last year.

The quality of water sources in major cities in the province, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shaoguan and Huizhou , is not considered to be up to the national standard.