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Toxic Chemical Detected in Nakdong River

Posted March. 03, 2008 03:00,   


A water plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, Sunday suspended the supply of tap water when a toxic chemical was detected in its water supply source. The suspension came after the Gumi Water Plant, a subsidiary of the Korea Water Resources Corporation, detected phenol in water coming into the plant from the Nakdong River at 5:50 a.m. The level of the detected chemical was 0.001mg/L, but it became higher than the permissible level of 0.005 ppm in the water sampled at the center as of 10:20 a.m.

The suspension of tap water supply started at 10:45 a.m. to affect Gumi and Chilgok areas. The water plant increased the discharge of water from Imha and Andong dams to thin the chemical.

Authorities resumed the water supply when the level went down to a tolerable one at 3:30 p.m. The supply was fully resumed by 8:00 p.m.

“The level of phenol was lower than the standard (0.02mg/L) set to stop supply of tap water, but we stopped the supply for the safety of citizens. We believe there was no leakage of pure phenol,” said the Ministry of Environment.

The ministry suspects that the phenol flowed into the river after firefighters extinguished the fire from an explosion at a phenol rosin factory owned by Kolon Chemical Co., Ltd. in Gimcheon on March 1.

The water from the plant flows to the Gam Stream, a branch of Nakdong River. The plant is 33 kilometers away from the Gumi Water Plant.

The local water plant produces 155,000 tons of tap water a day and supplies them to 360,000 residents in Gumi and Chilgok areas.

The state-run water company had been on alert since the fire occurred, in preparation of possible phenol pollution of the Nakdong River.

Local authorities in Daegu are on alert as well. If phenol is detected in its Maegok water plant, the water supply from the plant will be immediately stopped and replaced by the water from another plant.

The local police agency of North Gyeongsang Province is currently investigating the Kolon officials and firefighters to find out how the chemical seepage happened.

The fire at the Kolon factory, which occurred on March 1, killed two and injured 14. It was extinguished at 7:30 a.m. after burning down the three-story building.