03/20/2007, 00.00
ChINA
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White froth in river, lead below the water table

The Ying River, a tributary of the Huai River, has a 500-metre long white frothy slick moving downstream. Meanwhile in a small village in Hunan province half of the residents show signs of lead poisoning. As local fields wither trees die. Residents must get water from wells located hundreds of metres away since pollution has reached the local water table.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A white froth band that stretches for 500 metres was found in the Ying River, the Huai River’s biggest tributary. According to reports from the Xinhua news agency, technicians from the Fuyang Environmental Protection Department tested the Ying’s water on March 10 and found that it was severely polluted, especially ammonia and nitrogen. They also found that due to the height of a local dam, when water was released it agitated the polluted water below, forming a white foam band stretching 500 metres downstream. In the meantime, residents of a small village in Hunan province have shown high levels of lead in their blood. Around them trees are dying and harvest are going bad.

With a length of more than 1,000 km, the Huai River is one of China's seven major rivers. One of its tributaries, the Ying River, is an indicator of the quality of its waters. The Ying meets the Huai near Yangshang, in Fuyang municipality.

Across the country in Chaling County (Hunan) there are fears that in one village pollution has reached the water table. Lead poisoning was in fact confirmed for more than 40 people in Lixin after a blood test in a hospital in Beijing early this month.

The village has fewer than a hundred residents but last year four of them died of cancer.

Villagers have long complained of fatigue and other symptoms, while at the same time crop yields have dropped sharply, and once-plush fir trees on a nearby hill have died. Many residents now have to carry drinking water from wells hundreds of meters away.

After test results came in early December, the local Fuxing lead processing plant was closed, about 13 years after it started operations.

A plant worker told a newspaper the plant never treated sewage water before discharging it into a nearby river. The plant owner, however, has taken over management of another lead processing plant in the county soon after the Fuxing plant was closed.

Despite the plant closure further tests have shown that the lead content in people has risen.

Beijing doctors concluded that the lead had tainted water, vegetables and air for the entire village.

The villagers now want to be treated at Beijing facilities and demand the county bring in clean tap water. But the Shanghai Daily reported that local county officials said outside treatment and water were not needed.

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