The water supply to Handan, a city in Hebei province, was gradually restored on Sunday after being cut off for half a day in response to fears that it had been polluted by a substance used in making dyes, rubber additives and other materials.
"We've changed the source of water from the Yuecheng reservoir to groundwater and tap water was restored to most families today," Hu Xinchun, chief engineer at Handan Water Supply Co, said on Sunday.
He said residents of the upper floors of tall buildings may have to wait before the water pressure in taps returns to full strength. Hu said people living in those circumstances should try to keep some water in storage.
"But there is no need for panic," he said.
Authorities urged the public to wait until the Zhuozhang River had been tested and found to be safe before they drink out of it or eat fish caught in it.
The contamination came from "an accidental chemical leak" into the upper reaches of the Zhouzhang River in Shanxi province, according to a notice released by the Handan government on Saturday night.
An initial investigation showed that a loose drainage valve at a Tianji Coal Chemical Industry Group site in Shanxi allowed nearly 9 metric tons of aniline to seep into the river, Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday, while an additional 30 tons of the substance became dammed up in an abandoned reservoir.
Aniline is a clear or slightly yellow liquid that is soluble in water and can easily evaporate or seep through soil into groundwater. People exposed to it may have irritation and congestion in the upper respiratory tract and damage to hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen in the blood.
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