Acid Spill Leaves Half Million Without Drinking Water

20 tons of carbolic acid ran into the Xin'an River outside Hangzhou
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 7, 2011 11:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – A toxic chemical spilled into a river that supplies drinking water to a scenic city of Hangzhou in eastern China, knocking out supplies to more than half a million people and creating a run on bottled water. A tanker truck carrying 20 tons of carbolic acid overturned late Saturday, and the chemical was washed by rain into the Xin'an River about 90 miles southwest of Hangzhou, the city said on its website. Authorities temporarily shut down water plants and released extra water from nearby dams to dilute the spill, which affected the water supplies of at least 552,000 people in Hangzhou's suburbs.

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Carbolic acid is an industrial chemical used to create plastic and other materials. Contact with it can cause burns and ingesting it can cause damage to internal organs and the nervous system. The concentration of carbolic acid near the accident site remained more than 900 times the safe drinking level as of late yesterday, the report said. Despite assurances that drinking water in Hangzhou itself was safe, residents rushed to buy bottled water, leaving supermarkets shelves empty. An emergency worker has died, but details were not released. (Read more drinking water stories.)

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