Sewer Run-Off Turns Yellow River Red

By Zhang Mingkun, Central News Agency
November 3, 2006 Updated: November 3, 2006

CHINA—A sewer pipeline in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, discharged red-colored sewer water for three hours, turning a one-kilometer long area of the Yellow River red, according to an Oct. 23 article in the Lanzhou Morning newspaper.

The sewer pipeline near Tiyu Park in Lanzhou City began discharging red-colored water on October 22 and continued for three hours. The sewer water emitted a strong pungent odor, witnesses said. The local environmental protection agency began investigating the source of the pollution.

Local residents speculated that the polluted water might have been released from a heating system. Water used for heating systems is usually dyed red to prevent theft. Many heating systems in the region are being prepared for winter, so the red water could have originated from one of these systems.

Staff from the Lanzhou City Environmental Protection Bureau and the Yellow River Upper Stream Water Environment Monitoring Center investigated the scene of the discharge. Unable to determine whether the polluted water was from a heating system or from a chemical plant, the investigators took samples for further testing.

Staff from the Environmental Protection Bureau ruled out the possibility of leakage from a chemical or a printing plant in the vicinity.

Since the sewer system in Lanzhou City is not centralized, it is very difficult to locate the source of pollution. Laboratory tests may help staff to identify the red component of the sewer water and to determine if the water polluted the Yellow River. Pollution is a common and widespread problem in China.