China is sending Russia 150 tons of activated charcoal to help its neighbor filter drinking water from a river contaminated by a toxic spill from a Chinese chemical plant, officials said Friday. The charcoal is already at the border and will be shipped via train into Russia to help cope with a benzene slick expected to reach the area around Dec. 11, said Natalya Zimina, spokeswoman for the Khabarovsk regional government.
Khabarovsk is the largest Russian city in the spill's path, with some 580,000 residents. China has apologized to Russia over the Nov. 13 explosion at a chemical plant that sent the spill into China's Songhua River, which meets the Amur River and flows into the Okhotsk Sea.
Another shipment of 30 tons of activated charcoal sent from within Russia was expected to arrive in Khabarovsk by Saturday morning, Zimina said. City authorities held a meeting Friday of their special emergency commission to discuss where to test for elevated levels of possible toxins. The officials agreed that samples needed to be taken not just from the river's banks but other points as well to ensure they are getting an accurate picture of the situation, Zimina said.
Several Chinese experts were also expected to arrive in Khabarovsk from the northern Chinese city of Harbin, where authorities last week turned off the water supply as the toxic spill passed on the river nearby, the AP reports. Khabarovsk authorities say they will shut down the water supply for about two days if toxin levels are deemed dangerous. A.M.