Toxic river spill flowing toward Chinese city stopped by dam

A toxic river spill flowing toward China's southern business capital of Guangzhou has been stopped by a dam as the government rushed to protect water supplies to the city of 7 million people, a news report said Friday. Authorities closed the Baishiyao Dam at the city of Yingde, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Guangzhou, to trap the spill of cadmium flowing down the Bei River, the China Daily newspaper reported, citing local officials.

"Water in the lower stream is safe," a local official, Wang Zhensheng, was quoted as saying. Wang said another dam downstream also was closed and authorities planned to discharge water from a reservoir to dilute the chemical.

The cadmium dumped into the Bei by a smelter is China's second environmental disaster in six weeks, following a spill of benzene in a northern river that disrupted water supplies to millions of people. The benzene slick arrived Thursday in the city of Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East.

In China, the cadmium spill occurred in one of the country's most densely populated areas, Guangdong Province, which is home to thousands of factories that form the heart of China's thriving export industries. Yingde and another city farther upstream already have stopped using water from the river.

The Bei flows into the Pearl River, which passes through Guangzhou before emptying into the South China Sea west of Hong Kong.

The Baishiyao Dam in Yingde and the Feialixia Dam downstream will stay closed until the water returns to "safe levels of toxicity," but the government hasn't said when that will be, the China Daily said. Wang said that farther upstream, officials in charge of the Mengzhou Dam were preparing to release 390 billion liters (100 billion gallons) of water to dilute the cadmium, according to the report. The twin accidents are an embarrassment to President Hu Jintao's government, which has promised to clean up environmental damage from China's 25 years of breakneck economic growth, reports the AP. I.L.

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