China’s state-run news media said late Saturday that a “large amount” of diesel oil had leaked out of a pipeline last Thursday in Shaanxi Province.It's not the first time a chemical spill has imperiled millions of people who rely on China's many rivers for potable water. In December 2005, a benzene spill forced millions of people downstream of the leak on the Songhua River to find alternative water sources, and the spill worked its way into Russia before it was fully contained. Yet the Chinese authorities responsible didn't report the leak to those downstream for days.
The government has not explained why the report of the spill was not released until late Saturday. But Xinhua, the official state news agency, said the leak was caused by construction work and that a crew of 700 people was struggling to contain the damage from about 150,000 liters, or about 40,000 gallons, of diesel oil.
The damaged pipeline belongs to the China National Petroleum Corporation, one of the country’s state-owned oil giants and the parent company of PetroChina. The company said Saturday that it had shut down the pipeline and that “much of the leaked oil and polluted silt has already been taken away.” But government officials in Shaanxi province said on Saturday that oil has been detected far downstream from the leak and warned local residents not to use water in the region.
The oil pipeline, which transports oil from northwest China to central parts of the country, was damaged and released oil into the Chisui River and Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River, according to Xinhua.
China's reporting of these environmental disasters and its reckless disregard for human lives that it puts at risk must change. It needed to change after the Songhua disaster, and it still needs to change.
China's attitude towards the environment must change; it imperils not only those living in China, but the rest of the world with its ever increasing emissions of all manner of gases and particulates.