BEIJING April 12 A crude oil leak from a
pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp.
(CNPC) is to blame for water contamination that has affected
more than 2.4 million people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou,
media reported on Saturday.
The official Xinhua news agency cited Yan Zijiang, Lanzhou's
environmental protection chief, as saying that a leak in a
pipeline owned by Lanzhou Petrochemical Co., a unit of CNPC, was
to blame for the water contamination.
The leak poisoned the water source for a water plant,
introducing hazardous levels of benzene into the city's water,
he told Xinhua.
Levels of benzene, a cancer-inducing chemical, in Lanzhou's
tapwater on Friday rose 20 times above national safety levels,
Lanzhou authorities said in a statement. The high benzene levels
forced the city to turn off the water supply in one district and
city officials warned citizens not to drink tapwater for the
next 24 hours.
The city official Yan told Xinhua on Saturday that the leak
had been located and repairs were underway.
Lanzhou city authorities said on Friday they found 200
micrograms of benzene per litre of water. The national safety
standard is 10 micrograms.
By late Saturday morning, Xinhua said benzene levels were
confirmed safe at five out of the six water monitoring sites.
The water supply company, Lanzhou Veolia Water Co, is
majority-owned by the city government, with Veolia China, a unit
of French firm Veolia Environment, holding a 45-percent
On Friday, Veolia said in a statement an initial
investigation found the high levels of benzene were caused by
contamination at one of the two culverts that transfer raw water
from a sedimentation plant to the water treatment plant.
According to Xinhua, investigators found crude oil in soil
along a duct between two water works owned by Veolia Water.
"The channel has been carrying water to Veolia Water's No.1
and No.2 plants for decades. Under this ditch lies Lanzhou
Petrochemical's oil pipeline," the city's environmental
protection chief Yan told Xinhua.
A Veolia spokeswoman in Hong Kong declined to comment on
Saturday and referred all questions to city authorities.
Lanzhou, a heavily industrialised city of 3.6 million people
in the northwestern province of Gansu, ranks among China's most
CNPC is parent company of PetroChina Co.
. A PetroChina spokesman could not immediately be
reached for comment.
Lanzhou Petrochemical is a major refinery in China's
landlocked northwest. It has a total refining capacity of
280,000 barrels per day (bpd) and plans to process 195,000 bpd
of crude this year, industry sources have said.
(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu and Judy Hua in Beijing.)