UN environment agency team examines fallout from China’s chemical plant blast

13 December 2005

A four-member team from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is on a fact-finding trip to northeastern China to see firsthand the problems caused by the pollution released last month in a chemical plant explosion there.

“We accepted an invitation from the Chinese authorities to lend our assistance during this difficult time and we have come with an open mind and fully committed to cooperate and offer any help deemed necessary,” UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said.

The team said it will end its seven-day mission on Friday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it had received the reports that the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration sent to the UN Resident Coordinator’s office in China and an update from the Russian Ministry of Emergencies.

“The explosion led to the release of organic pollutants including benzene, phenylamine and nitrobenzene, with nitrobenzene and benzene released in quantities exceeding levels permissible in China,” OCHA said, basing itself on those reports.

Pollutants from the explosion entered the nearby Songhua River, principally through an eastern route controlled by the Jilin Petrochemical Corporation, which is affiliated with the China National Petroleum Corporation. The pollutants that entered the river started to move downstream in a plume of contaminated water recently estimated to be about 110 kilometres long, the reports said.

The pollution plume would dissipate more quickly as it met the higher volume of water in the Hulan, Tangwang and Mudan rivers, resulting in a lower concentration of pollutants.

The area within the Russian Federation that was likely to be affected by the plume contains 70 settlements with a total population of approximately 1 million people. According to the Russian Far East Emergency Department, the plume was expected to be fed into the Amur River later this week and reach the mouth of that river by 25 to 27 December.


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