BEIJING -- A dam has stopped a toxic river spill flowing toward China's southern business capital of Guangzhou as the government rushed to protect water supplies to the city of 7 million people, a news report said yesterday.
Authorities closed the Baishiyao Dam at the city of Yingde, about 60 miles north of Guangzhou, to trap the spill of cadmium flowing down the Bei River, the China Daily newspaper reported, citing local officials.
''Water in the lower stream is safe," local official Wang Zhensheng was quoted as saying. He said another dam downstream was also closed, and authorities planned to discharge water from a reservoir to dilute the chemical.
The cadmium spill, dumped into the Bei by a smelter, was China's second environmental disaster in six weeks.
The first was a chemical plant explosion that spewed benzene and other toxins into a northeastern river, disrupting water supplies for millions of people and straining relations with neighboring Russia.
The benzene slick arrived Thursday in the city of Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East. Authorities there said the city of 580,000 people would keep supplying running water from the river because chemical levels were still within a safe range.
The cadmium spill occurred in one of China's most densely populated areas, Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong and home to thousands of factories that form the heart of the country's thriving export industries.
The manager of the smelter in the city of Shaoguan -- where the spill occurred -- was removed from his post, said Huang Yunwu, director of the propaganda department of the city's Communist Party branch.
Fourteen other smelters in Shaoguan, farther upstream from Guangzhou, have suspended operations while they undergo safety inspections, Huang said.
Yingde and another city upstream already have stopped using water from the river.
The Bei flows into the Pearl River, which passes through Guangzhou before emptying into the South China Sea west of Hong Kong.
The Baishiyao Dam in Yingde and the Feialixia Dam downstream will stay closed until the water returns to ''safe levels of toxicity," the China Daily said.