updated 5/1/2006 11:56:09 AM ET 2006-05-01T15:56:09

Thawing river ice has released a "second wave" of pollution into rivers and tributaries near a major Russian Far Eastern city, five months after a Chinese toxic spill flowed into the region, 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 some waterways, NTV reported.

"As before, a higher-than-allowable concentration of different kinds of phenols has been observed," Alexander Gavrilov, deputy head of the Far Eastern water and weather monitoring service, said in televised comments. "In particular ... we have found that levels from this phenol group exceeds allowable limits by almost 30 times."

Lilya Kilye, a rural doctor, said experts have detected three cases this year of children with never-before-seen genetic defects in their kidneys.

A Chinese factory explosion in November spewed benzene, phenol and other toxic 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 settlements.

The incident strained relations between Moscow and Beijing.

Experts warned the effects could be long-lasting, with toxins settling on the river bottom, sticking to ice and accumulating in fish.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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