Algae returns to 2 lakes in China

Jun 25, 2007 08:25 AM EDT

BEIJING - Fetid algae growth returned to two major lakes in eastern China and covered one-third of their surfaces, but water supply were unaffected, state media reported Monday.

The algae blooms have covered parts of Lake Tai and Lake Chao, the country's third and fifth-largest freshwater lakes, China Daily reported, citing the National Satellite Meteorological Center.

An outbreak last month in Lake Tai forced millions of residents of the lakeside city of Wuxi to drink and bathe with bottled water. The algae bloom, which top Chinese officials blamed on pollution, lasted six days until it was flushed out by rain and water from the nearby Yangtze River.

An algae bloom also struck Lake Chao earlier this month, but did not threaten water supplies.

The bright-green algae, which are plantlike organisms, are common in fresh water worldwide. Some types can produce dangerous toxins.

Lake Chao's current situation was being closely watched, and water from the Yangtze will be diverted to the lake to dilute it and improve its water quality, the China Daily newspaper reported, quoting Zhang Zhiyuan, a spokesman for the Anhui provincial environmental protection bureau.

Li Jianqiu, a spokesman with Wuxi utilities bureau, said the latest outbreak in Lake Tai has not affected the city's drinking water because the bloom was far from water intake points.

The latest outbreak in Lake Chao was blamed on nitrogen and phosphate from fertilizers, industrial runoff and untreated sewage. Warm temperatures have also helped the algae grow and spread quickly, China Daily said, citing Zhang Bangguo, an expert with the environmental protection bureau that oversees Lake Chao.

The paper did not specify the cause of the latest outbreak in Lake Tai, famed for centuries for its beauty. But it has been hit hard by pollution from industries in the densely populated, fast-developing region 80 miles west of Shanghai.

China's waterways are dangerously polluted after decades of rapid economic growth and lax enforcement of pollution controls, creating ideal conditions for algae blooms. Outbreaks are usually caused by concentrated run-off of chemicals from industries and farms.