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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 16:38 GMT
Maximum fine over China pollution
Harbin residents on the bank of the Songhua River in November 2005
The spill from the plant affected both Chinese and Russian cities
China's environmental watchdog has handed the maximum possible fine to a PetroChina subsidiary for a toxic river spill which cut off water to millions.

Jilin Petrochemical was ordered to pay 1m yuan ($125,000, 64,000) for its pollution of the Songhua River in 2005, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

A blast at its chemical plant in Jilin province discharged about 100 tonnes of the carcinogen benzene into the river.

The city of Harbin lost water supplies for five days, and Russia was also hit.

China's State Environmental Protection Agency found the company guilty of three counts of breaking environmental law.

Last year China said it had given "administrative demerits" to a provincial official and several PetroChina executives.

Harbin resident with a stack of bottled water
More than 3 million Harbin residents were left without fresh water
The benzene caused an 80km (50-mile) slick and dramatically elevated benzene levels in the river.

The polluted water flowed into Harbin, leaving 3.8 million residents with no access to clean water, and then onwards to the Russian city of Khabarovsk.

China announced in March last year that it would spend more than $1.2bn (610m) on the clean-up.

The incident strained relations with Russia and highlighted growing problems in China over water pollution.

China punishes river's polluters
24 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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11 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese chemical threat to rivers
24 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
China plans huge river clean-up
30 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Toxic leak reaches Russian city
22 Dec 05 |  Europe
China apologises for river spill
26 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Harbin toxic leak
24 Nov 05 |  In Pictures

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