Cadmium Spill In Chinese River Threatens Water Supply for Over 1 Million People

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Earlier in January, a toxic spill of cadmium began flowing into the Liu River, a major river in China that also acts as the water supply for more than 1 million residents of Liuzhou city, pictured above. Cadmium is used in manufacturing a range of electronics including batteries, as well as electroplating in the aircraft industry which helps steel resist corrosion. The suspects behind the spill include six metal companies and a zinc copper mine, though authorities haven't determined which (if not all) are the main culprits. In an effort to save the water supply, emergency workers are hard at their third attempt to contain the spill.

The Guardian reports that emergency personnel have poured over 300 tons of chloride and caustic soda into the river in hopes that it will cause the cadmium to clump and be filtered out.

"Thousands of police, soldiers and fire brigade officers have been mobilised to halt the spill, which has sparked panic buying of bottled water and underscored the environmental cost that China is paying for its rapid economic growth. At Nuomintan dam - 60km upstream - cadmium concentrations are eight times higher than safety levels, prompting the authorities to warn locals not to drink from affected stretches of the river. Cadmium is a known carcinogen that can also damage the lungs and kidneys."

While a spokesperson of the Liuzhou government to the Guardian that the water supply is still safe and that if the cadmium levels rise above twice the national standard, then the government will draw water from underground supplies.

An article from xinhuanet.com states that the panicked buying of bottled water started after "excessive cadmium levels were detected in the Longjiang River, a subsidiary of Liujiang River in Hechi City on Jan. 15."

Here is a video report from Euronews on the spill:

The pollution of rivers in China is nothing new, and this spill is one of many that have made the news over the years, from toxins released from mining operations to industrial factories. It is so common, a hotline has even been set up to report pollution. Without a doubt, electronics companies can play a significant role in making sure the rivers of China get a fighting chance and that the water supplies of people, let alone countless plants and animals, is cleaned up.

Tags: Chemicals | Electronics | Pollution

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