Ho Chi Minh City's environmental enforcement division called for a VND6.4 billion (US$300,800) to be levied against a local leather producer, the heaviest penalty ever considered for a polluting business in the city.
A source from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment said Hao Duong Leather Company caused severe damage to the environment by deliberately discharging untreated toxic sewage into local waterways, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Their proposed penalty includes nearly VND4.4 billion ($206,800) that the company saved by not treating its waste, the paper said.
They said the company pumped more than 437,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage into a local river between January and October last year.
According to its contract with Hiep Phuoc Industrial Zone in Nha Be District, Hao Duong was supposed to pay the zone’s treatment plants VND10,050 for each cubic meter of sewage it treated.
Hao Duong’s wastewater pollutants were said to exceed legal limits levels ten-fold.
Pipes discharge untreated sewage at Hao Duong leather company in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Officials said Hao Duong produces around 24,000 tons of leather a year and discharges around 2,500 cubic meters of wastewater a day.
The company has never treated any of its waste, the officials claim.
After receiving various warnings about its repeated violations, the HCMC government shut the company down in November of 2013 after police caught around ten workers operating a waste discharge pump.
Those familiar with the issue said there was only one pump in 2008, but two more were added in 2010. They were turned on two to three times a day, usually between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The suspension will remain in effect until the city government decides that the firm has improved its environmental practices.
Various complaints about the toxic discharge began trickling in after it began hampering lives and businesses.