Expert against drinking Beijing tap water

Jan. 9, 2013 at 12:17 AM
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BEIJING, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A water-quality expert in Beijing advises residents against drinking tap water in the Chinese capital but instead go for bottled water if they can afford it.

Zhao Feihong, a researcher on drinking water at the Beijing Healthcare Association, said: "I have not drunk tap water for 20 years. The capital's water has gotten more polluted in recent years," adding many of her friends and relatives also are doing the same because of health concerns, China Daily reported Wednesday.

"In the past we used to drink directly from Miyun Reservoir (on the outskirts of the city), which was built in 1958 and is one of the largest in North China," she said. "The water quality at the reservoir at that time was on a par with Germany, which has strict standards for surface water. But not now."

However, Beijing Waterworks Group, responsible for providing water to the capital, assures tap water is safe as it meets national water quality standards, the report said. Spokeswoman Liang Li said safety standards include an online monitoring system for real-time quality supervision, which will be soon be conveyed to the public online every three months.

Zhao agrees the quality currently is in compliance with national standards, the report said. But she said tests she made several days ago as well as tests by the waterworks group late last year showed the concentration of nitrite in tap water was more than 9 milligrams per liter or under the national standard of 10 mg/L.

She said what concerns her is the significant increase in nitrite in the tap water over the years.

"The figure was within 2 mg/L six years ago and within 5 mg/L in 2011," she said. "It's an indisputable fact that the city's water quality is getting worse at an alarming rate." Nitrite was described as being mainly from trash, filtrate and excrement.

She said the Guanting Reservoir in Beijing's northwest Yanqing County, once a source for drinking water, is now a backup source due to pollution, the report said. She also said she sees a lot of garbage in the rivers and many sewage drains pouring directly into them.

Zhao said pesticide residue, excrement and the landfill leachate have replaced heavy metal as major pollutants, and warned the pollutants are getting smaller in size, making it difficult to treat them under traditional methods.

One industry official said more and more residents are now using mineral water instead of boiled tap water.

Separately, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted authorities in north China's Hebei province that water quality in a reservoir in Handan city had been restored after it was contaminated by a toxic chemical spill from a neighboring province.

The chemical called aniline leaked into the Zhuozhang River Dec. 31 from a chemical plant owned by the Tianji Col Chemical Industry Group in Changzhi city in the neighboring coal-producing province of Shanxi, which resulted in cutting off of water supply in Handan City.

Officials said the overall quality of water in the Yuecheng Reservoir, source of tap water to more than 1 million people in Handan city, had reached the national standard, Xinhua reported.

The official Chinese media gave extensive coverage to the Shanxi province chemical spill, saying it took authorities there days to report the incident to the public. It could take a long time to clean up to the spill in the province.

China Daily reported Changzhi city mayor apologized for taking five days after the spill to make it public even as it affected supplies of drinking water to tens of thousands of people in the city, creating a public furor. The report also said four top officials of the Tianji plant had been dismissed.

It quoted health experts that aniline is a toxic substance which can be lethal to human in doses of four grams or more.

The aniline spill is the latest incident as China continues to fight pollution threatening water supplies.

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