BEIJING, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A spill of around 150,000 litres of diesel oil from a broken pipeline in northwestern China into a river has started reaching the Yellow River, but drinking water is safe for now, state media said on Monday.
The leak, from a pipeline owned by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) in Shaanxi province, was discovered on Wednesday.
The company turned off the tap when the accident happened, according to state media, but not before some of the diesel ended up in the Weihe River, a tributary of the Yellow River, a major water source for millions of people.
Despite the efforts of hundreds of people using barrages and other methods to clean up the diesel, the pollution had reached the Yellow River, the official Xinhua news agency said on its website (www.xinhuanet.com).
The populous but poor province of Henan is the first to have been affected, the report said, and the local government had begun taking emergency measures to guarantee safe drinking water, though say there is no need for alarm just yet.
“At present, cities along the river in Henan province have sufficient water resources,” Xinhua said.
The province “will work all out to deal with the situation and ensure the safety of drinking water for cities along the Yellow River”, it added.
The teaming provincial capital of Zhengzhou is one of the cities which relies on the Yellow River.
The province is setting up additional testing stations along the river and will test the water quality hourly, Xinhua said.
China periodically faces spills into rivers that result in water supplies being cut off, most seriously in 2005 when an explosion at an industrial plant sent toxic chemicals streaming into the Songhua River in the northeastern city of Harbin, forcing the shutdown of water supplies to nearly 4 million people.
Run-off from heavy fertiliser use, industrial waste and untreated sewage also caused a foul-smelling algae bloom on a lake in the southern province of Jiangsu in 2007 that left tap water undrinkable in a city of more than 2 million. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)