Petro­chem­i­cal spill sends 52 to hos­pi­tal in Fu­jian

Hose to oil ship rup­tured in of­fload­ing; pa­tients re­cov­er­ing; cleanup in progress

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHANG ZHIHAO zhangzhi­hao@ chi­

More than 50 peo­ple were sent to hos­pi­tal in Quanzhou, Fu­jian prov­ince, where al­most 7 met­ric tons of petro­chem­i­cals leaked on Sun­day, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment on Thurs­day night.

The 52 pa­tients mainly suf­fered from dizzi­ness, nau­sea, vom­it­ing and throat dis­com­fort. Ten re­quired hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, in­clud­ing one who fell into con­tam­i­nated wa­ter. So far, all 10 pa­tients are re­cov­er­ing quickly.

A hose from an oil tanker owned by Fu­jian Dong­gang Petro­chem­i­cal In­dus­try rup­tured when it was of­fload­ing petro­chem­i­cals con­sist­ing mostly of hy­dro­car­bon sol­vent at a wharf in Quanzhou’s Quan­gang district at 1:13 am on Sun­day, the state­ment said.

Bei­jing News re­ported that an early in­ves­ti­ga­tion had shown the ac­ci­dent was due to wear and tear of the hose, which leaked 6.97 met­ric tons of the chem­i­cal into the wa­ter. The gov­ern­ment said the leak is cur­rently clas­si­fied as a man­u­fac­tur­ing safety in­ci­dent, and in­ves­ti­ga­tions are on­go­ing.

The Quanzhou gov­ern­ment said in the state­ment that it will con­tinue to mon­i­tor the con­tent of the leaked chem­i­cal in the air and wa­ter, as well as ma­rine prod­ucts from the area, and eval­u­ate eco­nomic loses, hold peo­ple ac­count­able and han­dle the in­ci­dent in ac­cor­dance with laws and reg­u­la­tions.

Aliphatic hy­dro­car­bon sol­vents are oily, pun­gent chem­i­cal com­pounds typ­i­cally de­rived from the oil re­fin­ing process. They are flammable and toxic, ac­cord­ing to Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Daily, which strongly ad­vised peo­ple against breath­ing in large amounts of the chem­i­cal or eat­ing con­tam­i­nated fish or veg­eta­bles.

The in­ci­dent di­rectly pol­luted around 0.6 square kilo­me­ters of wa­ter, and 20 hectares of aqua­cul­ture farms owned by 152 fish­ing fam­i­lies. As of Thurs­day af­ter­noon, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties had dis­patched more than 400 ships and 2,500 per­son­nel to clean the wa­ter, and the work had been mostly com­pleted, the state­ment said.

The cleanup ef­fort is now fo­cus­ing on ab­sorb­ing pos­si­ble leftover chem­i­cals around the shore and on fish­ing equip­ment, it added. As of Thurs­day, apart from the spill site, wa­ter qual­ity in the sur­round­ing area had re­turned to good con­di­tions.

Air qual­ity has also im­proved steadily in the days since the in­ci­dent. The volatile or­ganic com­pound level in the air dropped from 14.9 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter at the vil­lage clos­est to the spill site to around 0.1 to 0.4 mcg per cu­bic m on Thurs­day.

Any level be­low 4 mcg per cu­bic m is con­sid­ered safe, ac­cord­ing to petro­chem­i­cal in­dus­try stan­dards, the district’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion bu­reau said.

The district’s bu­reau of agri­cul­ture, forestry and wa­ter said it had is­sued an emer­gency no­tice on Sun­day to lo­cal farm­ers, warn­ing them not to har­vest, sell or eat ma­rine prod­ucts from the area, and wait for safety test re­sults from the au­thor­i­ties.

Bei­jing News said lo­cal fish farm­ers had suf­fered losses rang­ing from tens of thou­sands of yuan to more than 1 mil­lion yuan ($144,300) due to the pol­lu­tion. Fu­jian Dong­gang Petro­chem­i­cal In­dus­try apol­o­gized for the spill in a state­ment re­leased on Sun­day and promised to com­pen­sate them for their losses.

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