The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development has ordered agriculture officials in central provinces to test cooking salt produced there for toxic metals after recent mass fish deaths have raised concern about the safety of coastal waters.
Nafidad, the ministry’s National Quality Assurance Department, has advised authorities in Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Khanh Hoa, and Ninh Thuan to test samples from at least three local producers for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
It also instructed its three offices in Khanh Hoa, Da Nang and the northern port city of Hai Phong to conduct similar tests.
Given the unusual fish death in the central region in recent weeks, the tests are necessary to ensure public safety, Nafidad said in a statement.
At least 100 tons of fish washed ashore last month in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue Provinces, apparently killed by industrial effluents.
People are stocking up salt and fish sauce with production dates preceding the disaster. Many are afraid that batches coming after that are unsafe.
Seafood consumption has also gone down, putting thousands of families in fishing villages along the central coast in a dire situation.
The biggest environmental crisis in Vietnam’s history has also tested the capability of the country to detect and handle large-scale disasters, which so far seems to have disappointed many.
Fingers have been pointed at Taiwanese steel plant Formosa, which admitted it has a large sewage pipe going straight into the sea in Ha Tinh. But it claimed all its discharged wastewater had been treated.
The environment ministry promised a thorough investigation by asking more than 100 experts from across the country and overseas to help. But it has yet to announce any findings.