40,000-Gallon Diesel Spill Reaches China's Yellow River

By Andrew Moseman | January 4, 2010 10:33 am

Yellow_riverLast week, while the world gearing up to ring in a new year, China was quietly reeling from a new pollution scare. A pipeline operated by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)—the country’s number one oil producer—ruptured and spilled 40,000 gallons of diesel in the northern part of the country.

The spill occurred in the Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River–which is the source of fresh water for millions of Chinese. Over the weekend, workers threw 17 floating dams across the Wei to block the toxic diesel and save the Yellow River. But scientists discovered diesel traces in a reservoir behind a dam in Sanmenxia, a city about 100 kilometers (62 miles) downstream from the point where the Wei meets the Yellow River, an official in the Henan provincial environmental protection bureau said on Monday [Wall Street Journal].

CNPC claimed the spill wasn’t its fault. The company blamed the spill on a construction company building a project near the underground pipeline that transported diesel from northwestern China’s Gansu to central Hunan province [AFP]. Chinese government officials have been typically tight-lipped with details, but BBC News reports that officials have warned the people of three counties in the Shaanxi province not to drink river water.

While workers scramble to protect the Yellow River, the 3,400-mile-long waterway already is in bad shape. Chinese research last year found that at least one-third of the Yellow River was unfit for even industrial use. The accident mirrors a 2005 explosion that released 100 tons of toxic benzene into the Songhua river in northeastern China, tainting the water supply for several million residents of the city of Harbin [TIME]. That incident also sparked tensions with Russia, where the Songhua eventually flows.

Related Content:
80beats: 1/3 of China’s Yellow River Not Even Fit for Industrial Use
80beats: Dams May Degrade One of China’s Remaining Healthy Rivers
80beats: A Year After the Olympics, Beijing’s Air Quality Back at Square One
80beats: Isn’t it Ironic: Green Tech Relies on Dirty Mining in China
DISCOVER: Empire of Uniformity: What happened to China’s hundreds of dialects and cultures?

Image: Wikimedia Commons / André Holdrinet

  • Dave E.

    America falls under some heavy critisizm for just about everything. We scrutinize ourselves to no end as well, to the point where our industry can’t compete in the world market due to regulations, unions, ect… So, when we are obviously not the biggest pollution problem in the world, why doesn’t anyone tell China to take it easy on the planet instead of breathing down our necks?

  • andrew

    “We scrutinize ourselves to no end as well, to the point where our industry can’t compete in the world market due to regulations, unions”
    Um, we’re in the most successful country, financially, than any other country, despite the recent economic trouble. SOooooo, huh?

    “We are obviously not the biggest pollution problem in the world”? Why/how is this so obvious to you? Because of this one story?

    “why doesn’t anyone tell China to take it easy on the planet instead of breathing down our necks?”
    Because we still pollute more than any other country, including China, plus we owe China a couple trillion dollars.

  • Dave E.

    We are the most successful country right now, but most would agree that China and India are rising powers in the world market. Also, I said industry, not the economy as a whole. Our industry lacks due to heavier requirements in terms of pollution and wages. Which, it’s a good thing we have the regulation on pollution that many other countries don’t.

    I don’t know if anybody has noticed lately, but not much reads “made in America.” Also, look at our auto industry. GM is having a hard time becuase they haven’t shipped their industry overseas where it is cheaper to manufacture. They just can’t compete when another company can make the same product cheaper.

    Our economy, on the other hand, does well becuase we tend to control industries here, and run them overseas. Which means less jobs here, which is not good for the middle class, but the money still comes back here. That’s also why the middle class is falling apart. And the economy with it.

    Also, China has the top, what is it, the eleven most polluted cities in the world? It may be more or less, but it’s up there. They have acid rain, which, as far as I know we don’t have here. Heck, you can’t even see the skylines through the smog of most of there cities. I’ve seen plenty to prove we are not the worst in terms of pollution. Maybe I should say for our size, or per carbon footprint of each person we are not the worst. Actually, per person in Dubai has twice the carbon footprint someone living in the US does. If you want a good luagh, though, just look up the Onion’s take on China’s pollution.

    I do agree we owe China a couple trillion dollars. Another sign that maybe our economy isn’t doing so well?

    All I’m saying is the US seems to be the only one harped on all the time when other countries are doing the same thing. That could be just becuase I’m a US citizen, and I don’t hear the world community critisize other countries. Then I’m sorry.

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