Oil spill, saber-rattling in Yellow Sea

In what is possibly the worst oil spill in China’s history, some 430 square kilometers of the Yellow Sea are covered with a slick following a July 16 explosion at a pipeline terminal in the northeast port of Dalian. At least one worker has drowned in crude during the clean-up operation. The slick has doubled in size despite earlier government assurances that it was being contained. Supplies have been cut to two local PetroChina refineries. The terminal receives crude from Yellow Sea rigs run by the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC). The Chinese government estimates the spill at 400,000 gallons. A Beijing-based biotechnology company, Weiyeyuan, is providing 23 tons of oil-eating bacteria to help clean up the slick. (BGN, WSJ, July 22; The Guardian, July 21; China Daily, July 20)

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held a military drill involving four ships and helicopters in the Yellow Sea over the weekend. Tanks were also loaded onto vessels at a port in Yantai, Shandong province. The PLA described the drill as a “regular mission”—but it comes just as the US is preparing joint maneuvers in the Yellow Sea with the Republic of Korea, over strong Chinese objections. The Pentagon confirmed the will go ahead, and said the USS George Washington will be involved. (Global Times, July 21; VOA, July 14)

In another ecological disaster, Guangdong province authorities have stopped all fishing in the Tingjiang River until at least the end of this month following a spill of toxic waste from the Zijin Mining Group Co.’s Zijinshan copper mine. Acidic waste has spread downstream to Guangdong province from Fujian, where it poisoned enough fish to feed 72,000 residents for a year. (Bloomberg, The Australian, July 22; China Daily, July 20)

See our last posts on China, Korea and the politics of oil spills.

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  1. More water contamination in Guangdong
    From Xinhua, Aug. 5:

    Tap water supply was resumed Wednesday in a south China town after a manganese contamination had led to drinking water shortage for 13,000 people since Monday.

    Local authorities in Lufeng City, Guangdong Provinceon Wednesday installed three temporary pipes to be connected to another local tap water plant that was not affected by manganese, amid efforts to ease drinking water shortage for residents.

    The city government said the manganese level in the contaminated tap water provided by a local supplier in Da’an town was 1.2 mg per liter since Monday, 12 times the maximum amount allowed in drinking water.

    The cause of the contamination was still under investigation and environment specialists from Lufeng City were in town to conduct further analysis, said Huang Xianjia, a city government spokesman.

    According to the safety standards for drinking water, jointly issued by the Ministry of Health and the Standardization Administration in 2007, the maximum manganese level allowed is 0.1 mg in every liter of drinking water.

    Huang said the contamination was “not serious.”

    “Tap water still appears clear with no odor. It’s safe for washing and bathing.”

    “Not serious”? I think I’d be less than comforted if I lived in Lufeng. And who is this “local supplier in Da’an”? Has the water system in “communist” China been privatized?