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BEIJING (AP) — An environmental protection director and six other officials have been fired after a spill of toxic cadmium in a river in southern China threatened drinking water supplies for millions of people, news reports said Saturday.

The spill in January prompted residents of Liuzhou, a city of 3.2 million in southwestern China’s Guangxi region, to stock up on bottled water. Officials said efforts to neutralize the cadmium were keeping its levels in river water within safe limits.

The environmental director for the city of Hechi, Wu Haique, was fired for negligence and dereliction of duty, the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and other reports said. They gave no other details.

Two officials also were punished but kept their jobs, the reports said.

Official reports have provided little information about the exact cause of the spill.

It initially was blamed on a mining company, but eight managers of mining and metals companies have been detained and four others fled, the China Daily newspaper said. Earlier reports said they were suspected of responsibility for unauthorized waste discharges.

The spill was detected after local residents reported finding dead fish Jan. 15.

Chinese rivers, lakes and coastal waters are heavily polluted due to inadequate controls on industries, runoff from farms and urban sewage.

The area near Hechi, upstream on the Longjiang River, where the cadmium was first detected, has seen repeated spills from smelters and miners operating in the area.

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