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Algae in Chinese lake threatens drinking water

Algae in Chinese lake threatens drinking water

The fifth-largest freshwater lake in China is at risk of a massive algae outbreak that could jeopardize drinking water for millions of people, reflecting the systemic pollution in China as it rushes to modernize.
Satellite photos show about 12 square miles (30 square kilometers) of Chaohu Lake in eastern Anhui province are already covered in algae, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.
"Current conditions, including nitrogen and phosphorus contents in the water, temperature, wind and sunlight, are favorable for the algae outbreak," Lu Xiaoping, head of the provincial environmental protection bureau's water environment department, was quoted as saying.
The waters of Chaohu Lake often turn slimy in the summer as algae fed by sewage, farm and factory runoff bloom, leaving it toxic and undrinkable. The lake is flanked by two industrial cities that together house some 5 million people _ Chaohu to the northeast and Hefei to the northwest _ and whose industrial and residential waste is tipped directly into the very body of water that provides their drinking water.
Lu told Xinhua that thus far only the western part of the lake was suffering from algae bloom and that drinking water supplies to the cities had not been affected because they came from the eastern waters.
In 2007, an outbreak of algae in Taihu Lake, 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Chaohu, cut drinking water supplies to some 2 million people for several weeks.
"This kind of outbreak of algae in this important lake will certainly have a negative impact on the water supply," said Wen Bo, the China program director of the California-based environmental group Pacific Environment. "It is another alarm call to the local cities and local government that they have to treat the environment seriously."
Wen said that Hefei city is expanding its boundaries and moving closer to the shores of the lake, presenting the threat of more urban waste being discharged.
The report did not outline government plans to remove or reduce the algae in Chaohu Lake.
In previous years when algae has threatened to overrun lakes _ including those used for rowing events in last year's Beijing Olympic Games _ workers have scooped the organisms out by hand, and authorities have even resorted to releasing millions of fish to eat the algae.
China has a national goal of restoring its severely polluted lakes by 2030.
Li Zhaolin, who lives near Chaohu Lake, told Xinhua that the lake smelled so bad he could no longer open his windows.
"The dead fish have brought swarms of mosquitoes, affecting the life here," he was quoted as saying.


Updated : 2020-12-01 16:35 GMT+08:00