Formosa illegally changed waste-treatment technology: Vietnam minister

By Nguyen Hoai   July 11, 2016 | 08:03 pm PT
Formosa illegally changed waste-treatment technology: Vietnam minister
Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa's steel mill in Ky Anh district, central coastal province of Ha Tinh. Photo by AFP
The prime culprit behind Vietnam's mass fish deaths arbitrarily picked a less environmentally-friendly waste-treatment method.

An arbitrary change to the steel plant's waste-treatment system was a serious procedural violation by the prime culprit of Vietnam’s mass fish death, Environment Minister Tran Hong Ha said in a report  to the Vietnamese parliament on the environmental disaster caused by a unit of Formosa.

Ha made the statement on Monday at a meeting in Hanoi focused on socio-economic development in the first six months. He was reporting to the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, the results of the investigation into Formosa Ha Tinh Steel -- the Vietnam subsidiary of Formosa Plastics -- saying that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had detected 53 procedural violations committed by Formosa. Among those, an illegal change to waste-treatment technology was deemed the worst violation.

“The most serious violation is that Formosa has arbitrarily changed their environmentally-friendly dry ore processing technology to wet processing – a method that dispenses more waste, especially gas,” Ha said. “Although this change was not related to the environmental incident which resulted in the mass fish deaths, it is a serious violation of the law.”

Ha said Formosa was undergoing test-runs during the mass fish death phenomenon and the company’s ore processing plant was only running at a fourth of its capacity. Despite the plant being the biggest source of pollution, the incident happened due to an electrical problem.

“If they operate the system correctly at its capacity and all regulations are monitored closely, Formosa should be able to control their waste treatment,” the minister said.

After the Vietnamese government declared Formosa responsible for the environmental disaster along Vietnam’s central coast, the discussion on damage assessment and how to prevent such incidents from recurring continues.

Nguyen Thuy Anh, chairwoman of the parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs, questioned the governments over problems identified in the inspection process at Formosa. She also raised concerns about foreign laborers working in the Vung Ang Economic Zone in the central province of Ha Tinh, where Formosa is located.

Pham Minh Huan, deputy minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs  said the ministry, together with Ha Tinh People's Committee, conducted several inspections and found that 70 percent of the foreign workers at Formosa had been granted work permits.

"Currently, permits are the responsibility of local authorities in Ha Tinh, and as far as we know, the procedure is strictly regulated," Huan said.

Taiwanese firm Formosa hit the headlines recently for causing one of the biggest environmental disasters in Vietnamese history, killing tons of fish across four coastal provinces. The company has officially apologized to the Vietnamese people and promised to pay compensation of $500 million to make up for the damage.

Related news:

> Vietnam slaps polluting steel firm Formosa with $70 mln tax bill

> Vietnam’s police investigate provincial agencies following Formosa incident

> Formosa offers $500 mln to compensate Vietnam for catastrophic environmental damage

> Formosa: a costly precedent for Vietnam

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