Lanzhou to build second water supply after benzene scare

New facility will use reservoir that draws from Yellow River, city authorities say, with construction to begin soon

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 11:55am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 11:55am

Lanzhou authorities will add a second water source for the Gansu city of more than 3 million after supervision at the main supplier was found lacking following a contamination scandal, state media reported.

Lanzhou is the mainland’s only provincial capital without a second water source, Xinhua quoted Wang Ning, spokesman of the city’s newly convened emergency response team as saying.

The main supplier is Veolia Water, a joint venture between a French company and the municipal government, established in 2006.

But supervision by the local government was inadequate, Wang told a press conference on Tuesday. 

Daily operations of the facilities are overseen by the government

The city would start construction soon of a second water source to ensure water security, Wang said.

Authorities on Friday announced tests had found excessive levels of benzene in the tap water, and told residents to avoid drinking it. As early as last month, residents had complained of foul odour coming from the water in their homes.

On Monday, the government said supply had returned to normal but warned of possible interruptions in the future.

The contamination was initially believed to have come from a leaking pipeline belonging to Lanzhou Petrochemical, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s largest oil company, investigators said.

Wang said the municipal government has started preliminary work for the construction of the second source, which will draw from the Liujiaxia Reservoir on the Yellow River.

Construction was to start last month but was postponed due to the investor, he said, but added work would begin as soon as possible.

Additional experts would be invited to take part in the follow-up investigation for any related contamination problems, he said.

Relocation of residents of 94 households near the polluted area began on Tuesday, and was expected to take three days to complete, the local government said.

Medical staff at a temporary clinic set up by the Gansu People’s Hospital to handle any benzene poisoning cases met 300 residents but no cases have been found.

According to national standards, comprehensive quality tests for tap water are required to be conducted every six months, while daily tests do not include checks for benzene.