It's all over now save the sqawking. And the confusion. And the executions.
Waking up on Monday morning I found my faucet capable of dripping water. A few hours later my toliet was fully flushable once more. It's official, the water is back on, and I'm quite grateful for that. The public schools are still closed until Thursday, the dead fish are still washing up along the river bank, and they'll be installing charcoal filters into the water system for a while now; but the water is back on.
The government has instituted a color-coded "water safety alert" quite similar to the wonderfully comprehensible US Terror Alert: "Red" means heavy contamiination, dont even touch this water for fear of leukemia; "Yellow" means you can do anything with it but drink; "Green" is a full-fledged A-OK. So very simple. But they still haven't notified us where this information may be posted, and so most people's water use is based upon the rumor that they choose to believe.
I can, regardless of the safety level, flush my toliet without fear of cancer.
We hear a bit more every day of how this was handled, but I don't think I'll ever get a full story. Some of the officials and workers from the company whose chemical plant exploded have gone missing; whether they have fled or have been shot we don't know. The municipal and provincial government based in Harbin has been playing ping pong with the national government in Beijing; an endless finger pointing cycle that guaratees no one left with blame. No one made any announcement to the media prior to it already being too late because no one wanted to take responsibility for admitting such a mistake. So no one did. That is why we were left in the dark for so long. That is why we're still in the dark, though to a lesser extent.
A town up-river from Harbin shut itself down 6 days before we did. They are still without water. As the weather is quite cold and the SongHua River rather shallow, a lot of the benzene finds itself frozen under beds of ice, seeping into the ground and destroying the local eco-system. Harbin itself, targeted for industrial and economic growth in the current "five-year plan," was already low on water, now I've heard that the city is 150,000 tons of water short on a daily basis as the new filters hamper flow. A second water plant was apparently begun, but construction lagged and its usefulness was lost.
The newspapers published a different story almost everyday and people invented scores of their own. At this point I don't trust what I read, a view held by many Chinese. But I can still flush my toliet again.
It has been fun playing reporter these past few days. It has not been fun not-showering, not-shaving, and not-flushing. It was even less fun being around others who were not-showering, not-shaving, and not-flushing. Of my own persoanl water supply, I've still got a basin and a half as well as my laundry machine full.
I hope you've enjoyed a first-person account of what happened here, because I'm done with this story. I need to spend some time cleaning both myself and my apartment. We now return you to our regularly scheduled ramblings.