Police and environment officials in Tay Ninh Province on Monday started to dig up around six metric tons of untreated medical waste that a private hospital has been burying illegally near a canal.
The officers on Thursday (June 25) caught two guards of Le Ngoc Tung Private Hospital burying its waste at a vacant land site in a residential area, Tuoi Tre reported.
The waste included placentas, drug bottles, used needles, syringes and blood collection tubes.
Tieu Huu Duc, 58, who lives in the neighborhood said the guards used to burn the waste there, but locals stopped them, so they started to bury it.
Duc said locals did not know it was medical waste until some of them stepped onto used needles.
A local environment company said it signed a contract with the hospital to collect its waste every two months for treatment. They collected nearly 900 kilograms in February and April.
Do Trong Hieu, deputy director of the hospital, conceded that there is a large amount of "dangerous" waste it has to treat every day, but its incinerator has not been licensed yet. As a result, it has to bring the waste outside and bury it.
Nguyen Dinh Xuan, director of Tay Ninh’s environment department, told Tuoi Tre the incinerator's design does not meet technical requirements.
He said the waste buried was between four and six tons, based on the hospital’s disposal records.
Xuan said local residents and the environment have been exposed to a “very serious danger” as the waste was buried near a canal that flows into the province's river and canal system.
He said his department is still weighing the violation, but the hospital can face cash fines and some individuals will be held accountable.
Vietnam is discharging around 76,000 tons of waste a day, 80 percent of it buried and the rest burned or turned into fertilizers.
Power-generating incinerators are a popular waste treatment method in developed countries, but not in Vietnam, where solid waste has not been classified. The country also cannot afford the costs to build modern treatment plants.