Brewery under suspicion as fish die in central river

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A beer factory in the central Vietnam is suspected of dumping untreated wastewater into a local river after thousands of fish and other creatures were found dead early this week.


Initial inspections showed that the pipe system from which the Quang Ngai Sugar Joint-stock Company's brewery discharged  draff wastewater into the Tra Khuc River was still working, although the factory has been suspended and told to move to another place after several environmental violations, local officials said on Wednesday.


The pipes were hidden under bushes, according to the Quang Ngai Province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment.


The department launched the investigation after fish and crabs, both big and small, as well as other marine creatures started dying and floating along a one-kilometer-plus section of the river in Tinh Long Commune on Monday.


The river water turned muddy, bubbled and smelled bad, locals said.


Pham Hung, deputy head of Quang Ngai environmental police, said they had found on April 19 thousands of cubic meters of draff wastewater stored in a tank, but it was nowhere to be found in the latest investigation.


"If the wastewater was dumped into the Tra Khuc River, no wonder the fish died, as nothing can live in places where the draff wastewater flows; even grass will die," the official said.


Vo Van Nha, director of the brewery, said on April 29 they discharged wastewater into the river when they were cleaning equipment to remove the factory.


Investigation is ongoing with tests on samples taken from Tra Khuc's water.


Huynh Tan Dung, vice chairman of Tinh Long's People's Committee, meanwhile, said the river section showed signs of pollution once or twice a year, mainly during in the dry season, killing many species.


Locals have proposed related agencies launch inspections into the cause for many times, but none of them made any move, he said.


In another case of river pollution, authorities in the southern coastal province of Ba Ria Vung Tau have proposed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Vietnam Farmers Association support them in asking Vedan Vietnam to pay compensations for damages caused to local farmers by its dumping untreated wastewater to the Thi Vai River.


On April 9 the provincial People's Committee asked the Taiwanese monosodium glutamate maker to pay a total of over VND53.6 billion (US$2.8 million) to 1,255 affected families.


The figures calculated by local related agencies were appreciated for its high reliability by Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam National University's Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, which was authorized by the ministry to estimate Vedan's responsibility in Thi Vai's pollution, the authorities said.


However, in a writing reply dated April 22, Vedan asked the province to provide it with related documents for studying and suggesting compensations later.


Previously the company said it would pay affected farmers in the southern province of Dong Nai VND15 million ($791), even though the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment estimated that its pollution caused damage worth more than VND1.6 trillion ($84.4 million) to 5,064 local families.


As Thi Vai also flows through HCMC, 839 fish farmers in the southern city have also asked for VND107 billion in compensations as calculated by scientific research.


The city's authorities have proposed the environment ministry to cooperate with them and the two provinces in demanding Vedan pay the compensations.


Vedan in September 2008 was found installing a secret pipeline through which 105 million liters of untreated wastewater were dumped into the Thi Vai each month since 1994.


Since then it has delayed paying compensations to affected farmers, or suggested compensations that the latter rejected for many times as too small.

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