A Chinese maritime court Saturday ordered the detention of a South Korean cargo ship after a chemical spill allegedly from the ship partially contaminated the drinking water source of a city downstream of the spill, along the Yangtze River in Jiangsu Province.
The Wuhan Maritime Court, which has jurisdiction over the region, ordered to detain the cargo ship Gloria at the Yangtze riverside city of Nantong and set a bail of 20.6 million yuan (US$3.3 million), Bu Xiaofang, a spokesman of the Zhenjiang Municipal Government, said late Saturday.
The government Tuesday confirmed excessive phenol levels in Zhenjiang water samples collected Feb. 3. The pollution caused tap water in some parts of the city to emit a pungent smell, causing panicked residents to stockpile bottled water from supermarkets.
An initial probe was conducted after authorities said they “highly suspected” a South Korean cargo ship that had docked at Zhenjiang spilled the chemical into the river.
“We have gathered evidence that the source of pollution was discharged from the pipe of Gloria,” said Mao Desheng, deputy head of Zhenjiang’s maritime bureau.
“I believe the cause of the spill will soon be verified and made public as the judicial procedure starts,” he added.
Water samples from Zhenjiang and cities further downstream on the Yangtze had not been detected with excessive phenol since Feb. 4, officials said. The authorities have also assured residents that supplies of purified bottled water are sufficient.
Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is an organic compound that can irritate eyes and skin. Soluble in water, it can damage the liver and kidneys if absorbed in large amounts.