Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

China river contamination illustrates paralysis in crisis(system breakdown in crisis)
Buffalo News ^ | 12/05/05 | CHING CHING NI

Posted on 12/08/2005 4:05:36 AM PST by TigerLikesRooster

China river contamination illustrates paralysis in crisis


Los Angeles Times


BEIJING - The long-term environmental impact of last month's chemical explosion in northern China that left millions of people without safe drinking water remains to be seen. But the political fallout has begun. Beijing sacked its top environmental official Friday in an effort to show accountability for the mishandling of the crisis. More heads are likely to roll, possibly including local party leaders in Jilin province where an accident at a petrochemical plant spilled 100 tons of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals into the Songhua River.

Residents of Harbin, a city of 3.8 million people, were not informed about the contamination until 10 days later. The 50-mile-long toxic slick still is making its way downstream toward the Russian border, forcing more towns and villages along the way to shut off their taps and switch to bottled water.

Some observers say the Harbin water crisis illustrates the bigger problem of China's bureaucratic paralysis during emergencies. "This is a systemwide failure," said Jiang Wenran, acting director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta. "The system itself is not set up to respond quickly. At every level there was confusion and delay."

Xie Zhenhua, chief of the State Environmental Protection Administration since 1993, took the fall partly because he sat at the top of the chain of command.

Shortly before Xie's resignation was announced, his agency lashed out at Jilin officials for failing to report the disaster in a timely fashion. For about four days after the Nov. 13 explosion, the agency received no information on the accident, "losing the best opportunity (to control the pollution)," said Wang Yuqing, vice minister of the administration, according to the official China Daily.

According to Jiang, a Harbin native who has done extensive research on the incident, authorities in Jilin and Heilongjiang where Harbin is located, asked Beijing for directions on what to do next. The scale of the disaster was such that they had no authority to act independently of the central government.

"When the responsibility reached them, [SEPA officials] were not able to make a quick decision," said Jiang. "They were telling the Jilin and Heilongjiang officials to find some kind of excuses."

A day before it would be too late to warn the public to prepare for the shut off of the city's tap water supply, Harbin officials announced maintenance work on the pipes. What has been billed as a "well-intentioned lie" helped set off panic, prompting skeptical residents to hoard bottled water and, in some cases, flee the city. The coverup ended only after Premier Wen Jiabao intervened and said the public must be told the truth, according to Jiang. When Wen became aware of the contamination remains unclear.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: blamegame; bureaucracy; coverup; crisis; incompetence; management; paralysis

1 posted on 12/08/2005 4:05:37 AM PST by TigerLikesRooster
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: TigerLikesRooster; maui_hawaii; tallhappy; Dr. Marten; Jeff Head; Khurkris; hedgetrimmer; ...


2 posted on 12/08/2005 4:06:03 AM PST by TigerLikesRooster
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TigerLikesRooster
News sources have mentioned benzene and nitrobezene. Benzene is almost insoluble in water. Nitrobenzene is fully soluble and readily contaminates ground water.

EPA site says:
"short-term: EPA has found benzene to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: temporary nervous system disorders, immune system depression, anemia.

Long-term: Benzene has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: (MCL is Maximum Contaminant Level, which for benzene is five parts per billion. This is roughly one tablespoon of benzene in five million tons of water) are chromosome aberrations and cancer."

Nitrobenzene perhaps is worse as being water soluble it gets into ground water, then into wells, and then is ingested."

Again from the EPA website:
"* Acute inhalation, oral, and dermal exposure to nitrobenzene in humans produces methemoglobinemia, in which hemoglobin (which carries oxygen in the blood) is converted to methemoglobin, resulting in lowering the amount of oxygen released to the tissues of the body. This lowered oxygen capacity is associated with fatigue, weakness, dyspnea, headache, and dizziness. At higher concentrations, depressed respiration, bluish-gray skin, disturbed vision, and coma may occur.
* Animal studies have reported methemoglobinemia and effects on the liver, kidney, spleen, and central nervous system (CNS) from acute inhalation exposure to nitrobenzene.
* Tests involving acute exposure of rats have shown nitrobenzene to have moderate acute toxicity from oral exposure.
* The Reference Dose (RfD) for nitrobenzene is 0.0005 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day (mg/kg/d) based on hematologic, adrenal, renal, and hepatic lesions in rats and mice."

This RfD is 0.0165 grams per day for a 150 pound person. 0.0165 grams This is 0.0165/1.0000 as much mass as two maximum strength Tylenol, roughly 1/64 of the mass of two Tylenol.

3 posted on 12/09/2005 2:28:13 AM PST by Iris7 ("Let me go to the house of the Father.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Iris7
Re #3

Seems we will have tens of millions of sick Chinese in Manchuria. The disaster had only begun. Thanks for your info.

4 posted on 12/09/2005 9:26:15 AM PST by TigerLikesRooster
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson