BEIJING -- A city in southern China shut down running water for eight hours after a smelter dumped chemicals in a river, residents said yesterday, a month after a toxic spill in a northeastern river disrupted water supplies to millions.
The two spills highlighted China's chronic environmental problems and the precarious state of its scarce water supplies.
The latest spill occurred on the Bei River in Guangdong, China's most densely populated province with more than 100 million people and a center for its export-driven manufacturing industries.
Running water in Shaoguan, 150 miles north of Hong Kong, was shut off Tuesday from about 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m., according to employees of three downtown hotels.
''Today, everything is back to normal," said a woman who answered the phone at the city's Hotel de Royce. She would give only her surname, Li.
China has suffered a series of such disasters, often blamed on lack of safety equipment or officials' refusal to enforce environmental rules that might hurt businesses. The accidents are an embarrassment to the government of President Hu Jintao, which has promised to clean up environmental damage from China's 25 years of breakneck economic growth.
Last month, a chemical plant explosion in China's northeast spewed 100 tons of benzene, nitrobenzene, and other toxins into the Songhua River, a key water source for millions of people.
The city of Harbin shut down running water to 3.8 million people for five days. The Songhua flows into the Heilong River, which carried the toxins into Russia.
Tuesday's water shutdown in Shaoguan came after the government said a smelter dumped toxic chemicals into the Bei, causing levels of the heavy metal cadmium to jump to 10 times acceptable levels.