Spill in China Underlines Environmental Concerns

The first warning came in the form of dead fish floating in a river.

Then officials in this city got confirmation that a chemical spill had taken place at a fertilizer factory upstream. They shut off the tap water, which sent residents into a scramble for bottled water. In the countryside, officials also told farmers not to graze their livestock near the river.

The spill, which occurred on Dec. 31, affected at least 28 villages and a handful of cities of more than one million people, including Handan. Officials here were irate that their counterparts in Changzhi, where the polluting factory was located, had delayed reporting the spill for five days. For the past two months, Changzhi officials and executives at the company running the factory, Tianji Coal Chemical Industry Group, have generally stayed silent, exacerbating anxiety over water quality.

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