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News

Korean cargo vessel accused of chemical spill

15 February 2012
A South Korean cargo ship accused of spilling phenol into the lower reaches of the Yangtze River was detained on 11 February. Wuhan Maritime Court, which has jurisdiction over the waters in the region, ordered the detention of the cargo ship Gloria, which was docked in Nantong, Jiangsu province.

Mao Desheng, director of the Zhenjiang maritime safety administration, said that the ship spilled the chemical into the river through underwater pipes. However, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said that the company that owns the vessels had denied the claim.

Zhang Jiangshun, head of a lower-level court in Jiangsu province that is subordinate to the Wuhan court, said the shipping company would not face trial if a compensation agreement was reached with the local water supply company.

China Daily reported that the ship, which on 2 February was docked in Zhenjiang, a city of 3m people in Jiangsu province, leaked phenol on 2 and 3 February due to a faulty valve.

Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is only mildly acidic but requires careful handling due to its propensity to cause burns. It can also cause kidney and liver damage if absorbed in large amounts.

Over the past week, residents of Zhenjiang complained that their tap water had a bleach-like smell. It prompted bulk buying of bottled water in Zhenjiang and Nantong.

The authorities in Zhenjiang said the city’s water sources had returned to normal since the afternoon of 3 February. The local environmental protection bureau has increased the frequency of examining water sources to twice daily in a move to reassure concerned residents.

     
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