A Lanzhou court has said residents cannot sue the city's main water supplier over excessive levels of carcinogenic benzene found in the water supply, mainland media reported.
The Lanzhou Intermediate People's Court said on Monday that five residents who sought legal action did not qualify under the law to bring a public interest suit in an environmental pollution case, Modern Jin Bao said.
Only "organs and relevant organisations designated by law" had the legal standing to initiate such a case, said the court in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu , in the nation's central west.
The municipal government on Friday asked residents not to drink tap water for 24 hours after tests showed benzene levels in the water supply had reached 20 times the national safety limit.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the city said its environmental bureau, disease control centre, and Veolia Water, the Sino-French joint venture that handles most of the city's water, would test water samples every day until a contaminated pipeline was replaced.
Moreover, the city said benzene would be added to a list of substances to be tested for in routine checks, with results released to the public each month.
In a related matter, a Lanzhou resident represented by lawyer Wu Tianying sought legal action against Veolia Water in a district court. No decision was reached.
The city government said water supplies returned to normal by Monday.
In a commentary yesterday, the People's Daily said the city government was negligent for not acting on residents' complaints a month ago.
An investigation showed soil along a duct between two of Veolia's waterworks was contaminated by oil leaking from a pipeline of Lanzhou Petrochemical, a unit of China National Petroleum Corporation.