Water supply returns to Chinese city


China's northeastern city of Harbin is preparing to turn the taps back on after a toxic spill into its river left millions without water for five days.

Water supplies in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, are due to come back on around 4 p.m. Irish time. The local government, quoting provincial and city environmental protection officials, said on its Web site the water would be "safe for drinking".

Tests by environmental protection officials at 8 a.m. showed the level of nitro-benzene in the water had dropped to 0.0031 milligrams per litre, meeting national standards, the Web site said.

It was 30 times above official safety limits last Friday morning but water was discharged from nearby reservoirs to dilute the toxic spill and 1,000 soldiers raced to ensure water would be drinkable by installing charcoal filters at water plants.

An explosion at a chemical plant in nearby Jilin province about two weeks ago poured an estimated 100 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene compounds into the Songhua river from which the city of nine million pumps its water.