Thawing River Releases More Pollution in Russian Far East

Thawing river ice months after a Chinese toxic spill has released a "second wave" of pollution into waterways near a major Russian Far Eastern city, experts said Sunday.

Residents in settlements up the Amur River from the city of Khabarovsk, population 580,000, have already started noticing a strong chemical smell coming from rivers and tributaries, NTV reported.

Alexander Gavrilov, deputy head of the Far Eastern water and weather monitoring service, said in televised comments that the presence of some toxins exceeds allowable limits by 30 times.

A Chinese factory explosion in November spewed benzene and other chemicals into the Songhua river, forcing Chinese authorities to cut off drinking water to millions of people. The spill flowed into the Amur several weeks later, threatening Khabarovsk and other Russian cities and towns.

The incident strained relations between Moscow and Beijing, and experts have warned the pollutant effects could be long lasting, with toxins settling on river bottom, sticking to ice and accumulating in fish.