Polluting Formosa steel plant gets greenlight in Vietnam to fire up new furnace

By Anh Duy   May 11, 2017 | 05:03 pm GMT+7
Polluting Formosa steel plant gets greenlight in Vietnam to fire up new furnace
Formosa steel plant in Ha Tinh Province in central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

The decision coincides with Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group's pledge to pour another $1 billion into the plant.

A Vietnamese council monitoring progress at a steel plant that caused the country's worst environmental disaster has given the all-clear for Taiwan's Formosa to test run a new furnace on a six-month trial period.

The plant has been under constant surveillance since July 2016 after it was found to have caused a devastating toxic spill that polluted 125 miles of coastline in Ha Tinh and three nearby provinces in central Vietnam, slowing the country’s economic growth and hitting the fisheries and tourism industries.

The council, headed by Vietnam's environment minister, said the furnace would discharge 300 cubic meters of biochemical sewage every day, but the treatment system would be able to handle it.

The company has also installed stations to automatically assess gas emissions around the clock, the council said.

The approval coincides with Formosa Plastics Group, one of Taiwan’s leading conglomerates that holds a 70 percent stake in the Ha Tinh plant, pledging to pour another $1 billion into the plant, raising its investment to $5.5 billion.

China Steel Corporation and Japan’s JFE Steel Corporation own the rest of the plant, which is the largest in Southeast Asia and Vietnam’s biggest foreign investment project.

Environment ministers and Ha Tinh officials have been asked to test waste samples from the plant regularly to avoid another environmental disaster.

The environment ministry said it could take the affected region a decade to completely recover from the incident last year, while experts predict the disaster may set Vietnam’s economy back for years.

Formosa has paid more than $500 million in compensation after admitting responsibility for the pollution.