The concerns emerged after Chinese media said on August 20 untreated industrial waste containing highly toxic benzene derivatives had been discharged from the Jilin chemical plant into a tributary of the Songhua, which runs into the Amur River in Russia's Far East. The reports provoked fears that a major environmental alert after an explosion last November would be repeated.
But Viktor Bardyuk, head of the Khabarovsk Territory's environmental department of the Ministry of Natural Resources appeared to play down the situation. "Russian experts took water samples on September 1-2 near the Chinese city of Jiamusi 35 kilometers [20 miles] upstream from the inflow of the Songhua into the Amur and analyzed them for aniline and amino methyl aniline."
The compound, which can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled, can cause nausea, breathing difficulties and can affect the nervous system.
Bardyuk said some samples had been delivered to Khabarovsk, a regional center in Russia, for a more meticulous analysis.
He said Russian and Chinese experts had started testing the Amur Sunday, with samples to be taken every morning from September 4 through 8 at Nizhneleninskoye, a town bordering on China.
The Khabarovsk authorities said toxic waste had been dumped into the river on August 20. China's General Consulate confirmed this but said there was no threat of the river's pollution and measures were being taken to prevent any environmental threat.
Tons of absorbent carbon have been delivered to Khabarovsk and other cities on the Amur, mirroring efforts taken at the end of last year to avert a catastrophe after a blast a Jilin Petroleum and Chemical Company plant in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang then caused 100 metric tons of benzene to spill into the Songhua.
But fears remain that potentially lethal benzene could have contaminated the water in a repeat of November's accident, which came close to creating an environmental catastrophe in the Russian Far East as a massive slick passed along the Amur before spilling into the Sea of Okhotsk.