MSG and starch maker Vedan has admitted to polluting a north-central river just six months after authorities caught the company spewing waste into a southland river.
A Vedan Vietnam cassava starch processing plant in the north-central province of Ha Tinh has been discharging untreated wastewater into the Rao Tro River, the factory’s director admitted over the weekend.
The Taiwanese-invested company, based in the southern province of Dong Nai, began test running the new facility on February 11, with plans to bring it to full operation by November.Upon opening the test run, nearby residents immediately began complaining of pollution in the river and terrible odors coming from the factory.
Tuoi Tre spoke with the plant’s director, Truong Vinh Chu, last weekend.
Initially, Chu denied allegations that the facility was responsible for pollution in the river.
It wasn’t until Tuoi Tre escorted the director to the site of a wastewater drain running directly from the factory to the Rao Tro River that Chu admitted his company’s culpability in the matter.
“I apologize and promise to repair this immediately,” he said at the canal connecting the plant to the river.
He said the canals had been designed to drain rainwater and that it was a “mistake” that wastewater was flowing into the river.
“We’ll repair it before starting our [full] operations,” he said.
What’s that smell?
Chu said he was aware of residents’ complaints about air pollution just after the factory began its test run.
“I am not confirming or denying it [foul odors caused by the factory in residential areas],” he said. “Processing cassava emits certain smells that our experts tell us are not at all harmful to local residents.”
A resident from Ky Son Commune was very unhappy about the stench.
“I thought it was a dead rat in my house but I couldn’t find it.”
Another resident said he thought the smell was pig’s dung.
Local residents said the odor was worse on hotter, sunnier days. They dubbed it the “Vedan Ha Tinh Smell.”
“It’s a really terrible smell that has tortured us around the clock for more than a month,” said a resident from Ky Son Commune.
Residents in nearby Ky Lam Commune, on the opposite bank of the Rao Tro River from the Vedan plant, were also frustrated.
“The stink has invaded the area,” a local said. “Our air used to be so clean and pure because we’re located next to the forest.”
Downstream in Ky Lac Commune, locals complained their formerly fresh air and water were turning rancid.
“The river is dirty and we’re worried because fish have begun dying since the factory opened,” a resident said.
At one section of the river near the factory, a three-centimeter layer of foamy, muddy substance covers the shoreline. A local resident removed some of the substance to show Tuoi Tre the cassava waste underneath.
Environmental authorities in Ha Tinh Province said on Sunday their inspectors had already investigated Vedan’s local facility.
The inspectors found two wastewater storage pools dug into the ground at the cassava starch factory, both of which were connected to the canals leading to the river. Inspectors said these could also have been the cause of the foul stench.
Nguyen Doan Sang, director of the province’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, reported the information to the media alongside Hoang Viet Thanh, the environmental police chief of the police department.
The officials said that in addition to the wastewater pools, the foul odors may have been caused by improper cassava drying facilities.
The inspectors have reported their findings to the Ha Tinh People’s Committee.
Tran Minh Ky, the committee’s deputy chairman, said last Saturday that the body would make a decision on the matter this week.
He also said the company should follow the environmental commitments it made when it was licensed for the facility.
Such commitments included providing proper treatment systems for waste and wastewater as well as preventing air pollution.
“If the factory has broken the commitments we will suspend its operations, even during the test run period,” he said.
The Rao Tro River, also known as the Nay River, originates in the Cam Ky Forest along the Lao border.
One of its two main distributaries flows into the Ke Go Lake in Ha Tinh Province while the other flows into the Gianh River in nearby Quang Binh Province.
Source: Tuoi Tre