From: Associated Press
Published November 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Officials Investigate Contamination of Amur River in Russian Far East

MOSCOW — Authorities in Russia's Far East were trying Tuesday to determine the source of chemical contamination in the Amur river, a regional official said.

Tests carried out last week found that water in the Amur, one of the largest rivers in the region, contained four times the permissible quantity of the chemical naphthalene, said Sergei Levkov, a spokesman for the Khabarovsk administration.

Naphthalene is used in household products such as mothballs, disinfectants and pesticides. Larger volumes of naphthalene are used as a chemical intermediate to produce other chemicals.

Levkov said water in the river was being purified by activated carbon. Tap water in the region was safe to use, he said.

The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an identified regional official as saying there are no chemical plants along the Russian portion of the Amur, whose main tributary extends into China.

Regional officials have asked their Chinese counterparts to investigate whether the contamination could have been caused by a chemical spill in the Songhua, the largest tributary of the Amur, Levkov said.

The Amur was the site of a major chemical spill a year ago, when an explosion at a Chinese plant dumped some 90 metric tons (100 U.S. tons) of carcinogens into the Songhua that eventually reached the Amur.

That accident caused fish in the river to develop bleeding ulcers, according to Russian media reports. Environmental activists voiced concern that the spill caused damage to other river life as well and presented a health hazard for people living near the area's waterways.

Source: Associated Press

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