River pollution scare in China: brewery, distillery closed

China has closed a brewery and distillery that allegedly polluted a river with grain waste, which fermented into sticky, yellow globs and frightened residents following a spate of chemical spills, the government said Friday. A nearby butchering plant was also closed for reportedly polluting the Hailang River , a major drinking water source for Mudanjiang , a northeastern city of 80,000 people, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua quoted experts as saying the alcohol producers had dumped into the river "a great deal of grain" that fermented due to warming weather, causing clumps of microorganisms to form.

City officials have treated drinking water with chlorine and it is safe to drink, the news agency said. A woman who answered the phone Friday at an office of the Heilongjiang Xueyuan Brewing Co., Ltd., one of three companies in the report, confirmed that the plant had been closed, at least temporarily.

However, she denied it had dumped any "industrial waste" into the river, saying it only discharged water used for household-type purposes. Offices at the other plants mentioned, Hailin Wuhuan Beer Co., Ltd. and the Hailin Food Co., could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spill of the dangerous chemical benzene into the nearby Songhua River in November prompted authorities to cut water supplies to millions of people in the area, and in neighboring Russia . The incident triggered a nationwide crackdown on industrial polluters, reports the AP.

N.U.