Officials in Quang Tri, one of the coastal provinces in central Vietnam where fish have turned up dead en masse, surprised quite a few people on Friday when they announced that its coastal waters are safe.
Nguyen Huu Nam, director of the province’s environmental surveillance center, said tests on 19 seawater samples taken on April 20 and 27 found the levels of toxic metals and chemicals all within safety limits.
He told Tuoi Tre newspaper that the province will continue to test the waters off its coast regularly, as ordered by the environment ministry.
More than 30 tons of dead fish have been washed ashore in the province the past three weeks.
The same situation has been going on at nearby provinces – Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Binh and Ha Tinh. Industrial effluents have been suspected as the main cause but officials said there has not been enough evidence.
Suspicion has centered around Hung Nghiep Formosa Steel Company, a major company in the Vung Ang Economic Zone, which admitted it has a large sewage pipe going straight into the sea in Ha Tinh. But it repeatedly claimed that all its discharged wastewater had been treated.
A diver working near the company in Ha Tinh died Sunday after suffering breathing difficulties. Another has been diagnosed with copper poisoning.
Thua Thien-Hue has detected heavy metal pollution in its waters while Quang Binh has temporarily closed off its famous beach Nhat Le to prevent “regretful consequences.”
Meanwhile Da Nang, south of Hue, has assured that whatever caused the pollution has not affected its waters.
To prove their point, some officials hit the beach on Saturday, including the environment department's director.
Dead fish have been spotted in Da Nang but the city officials said the number is small.
Da Nang's environment officials go for a swim on April 30.