The Jilin Chemical Explosion

The Jilin chemical plant explosions were a series of explosions which occurred on November 13, 2005, in the No.101 Petrochemical Plant in Jilin City, Jilin Province, China, over the period of an hour. The explosion was caused by a blockage in the plant’s processing tower and killed six, injured dozens, and caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. The failed attempt of a worker to clear the blockage eventually led to the explosions taking place. The blasts created an 80 km long toxic slick in the Songhua River, a tributary of the Amur. The slick predominantly made up of benzene and nitrobenzene, passed through the Amur River over subsequent weeks. The polluting of the Songhua River, which was the main water source for many cities, had disastrous chain effects, leading to the eventual shutting off of water in major cities.

Fumes of the explosion
people look at the chemical barrels floating on the Songhua River after they were washed away


A blockage in a chemical plant’s processing tower and a worker’s failed attempt to clear it triggered the explosions in Northeast China’s Jilin Province on Sunday, according to the top official from China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The reason of the blasts was initially determined two days after the blast: the accident location is a nitration unit for aniline equipment. T-102 tower jammed up and was not handled properly, hence the blasts. The blasts were so fierce that they shattered windows at least 100 to 200 meters away; at least 70 people were injured and six were killed. The fires were ultimately put out early in the morning of November 14. Over 10,000 people were displaced from the area.The explosions are not believed to be related to terrorism, and the COMPANY told a press conference that they had occurred as a result of a chemical blockage that had gone unsettled.

Water Pollution in the water body


1) Unsophisticated and illogical industry planning and distribution, mostly credited to irrational urban planning and fast expansion, would worsen accidents of chemical industry, making a city or a river more prone to chemical industry accidents. Irrational industry planning is a critical factor for chemical industry accidents becoming disasters.
2) Improper measures taken to deal with hazardous chemical product involved accidents can only worsen the situation instead of alleviating, bringing about pollution and secondary loss. There are special requirements on fire extinguishing agent for dealing with hazardous chemical product. If improper agent is applied, the accident may go worse. The application of water in dealing with such situations should be avoided or restricted, which usually translated to used or abused in actual practices. The mixture of extinguishing waste water, cooling water and diluting water is another large source of pollution from chemical industry accidents when discharged without any treatment.
3) We should carry out researches of prevention of sudden environment pollution and relevant disposals as soon as possible, including research of environment pollution cases; research of psychological influences of environment pollution events to the people; research of resident health condition and effects due to pollution, and a long-term monitor mechanism; and research of emergency disposal for sudden public health risks.

The negative effect of the pollution of the Songhua River is the damage it’s done to the ecosystem. Not only is persistent exposure to benzene linked to low white blood cell count and leukaemia in humans, but it also brutally destroys communities and organisms in the river. One of the environmental impacts of the explosions was the decline in river water quality that it led to. The decrease in water quality led to a corresponding reduction in the amount of fish in the river. The decrease in number of fishes then led to a decrease in the crane population, who depended on those small fish for nutrients. Also, the decrease in water quality also demonstrated to be a limiting factor, for it influenced the number of organisms able to survive under such dangerous conditions, reducing the overall number or organisms in the Songhua River.

However, there is a positive side to this disaster as well. The international attention gained by the chemical slick flowing into Russia has cast a spotlight on the flaws in China’s environmental protection policies. Flaws were revealed in the enforcement of local environmental laws, poor communication between state agencies and government officials, and poor emergency response. As a result, there have been revisions in China’s Water Pollution Control Act, and they have hosted an extensive legal enforcement campaign in the spring following the explosions. These measures were taken with the hope of preventing such an accident from happening again.

Seeing as the chemicals that flowed into the river did not have extreme long-term effects, our personal position is that the explosions were in a way beneficial. The mass panic, chaos, and inconvenience caused by the Harbin water shut-off has proven to help provide evidence for the importance of caring for the environment. As a result of this accident, laws have been rewritten, policies re-thought, and the public now more educated about the importance of preserving the ecosystem.