Nearly 1,000 residents in the north central province of Thanh Hoa submitted a petition to the media that demands a local firm compensate them for having illegally buried tons of toxic pesticides, which they say have seriously affected their health and farming activities.
The residents of Cam Van and Cam Tan Communes in Cam Thuy District and Yen Lam Commune in Yen Dinh District wrote in a letter sent to online newspaper VietNamNet and other newspapers they are ready to take the case to court.
But it is not clear how the disgruntled residents will proceed with the lawsuit.
Vietnam neither allows class-action suits nor enables non-affected parties to file public interest lawsuits. The laws prevent public interest groups like environmental groups from intervening on behalf of affected people.
According to the residents, since the military-owned Nicotex Thanh Thai Joint Stock Company was stationed in the Cam Van Commune in 1999, the environment surrounding their plant has become acutely polluted.
The stench of pesticides have spread through the air and leaked into the soil and water, they said.
Over the last 15 years, the number of residents in the affected communes to die of cancer and other diseases has been increasing.
Several women have given birth to babies with deformities or disabilities and some young women have become infertile.
Fish, cattle and fowl raised in the communes have died, according to the residents.
The residents said they had repeatedly called on local authorities to investigate the company’s operations, and authorities had inspected the company many times but the conclusion was always the same: authorities said the company’s pollution indexes were within the range of permissibility.
On August 25, hundreds of residents in Cam Van and Yen Lam communes flocked to a road linking the communes to prevent a truck from exiting the company, suspecting that is was en route to unload expired pesticides.
Four days later, the company confessed at a meeting with local authorities that it had buried 350 kilograms of pesticides, but the residents insisted that the amount of buried chemicals was higher.
On August 29 local authorities ordered the company to quickly excavate illegally buried pesticides and transport them to another location to be treated.
As the company did not give an exact date when they planned to this, later that same day, residents stormed into the company’s grounds with hoes, shovels and crowbars to dig up the soil.
After a few hours of digging, they discovered dozens of drums containing chemicals, packaging, bottles, and jars that appeared to have been buried underground for a long time. Many of the containers were rusty and smelly.
On September 2, local residents unearthed 21 drums with a total capacity of around 220 liters containing chemicals and pesticides from a nearby dumping ground.
Following the discovery, local authorities suspended the company from operating for one month pending an investigation.
The Thanh Hoa Province People’s Committee, the local government, on September 7 ordered the company to “sincerely report” on the locations it had buried pesticides and the amount of chemicals buried.