Leather firm caught dumping untreated waste into south Vietnam river

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Police said Tuesday they had caught a leather company directly dumping untreated waste into a river in Ho Chi Minh City, the 10th time in four years it has been caught committing gross environmental violations.


After staking out the company for three months, the Ministry of Public Security's Environment Police Department detected early October 24 around 10 workers from the Hao Duong Leather Joint Stock Company, located in the Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park in Nha Be District, operating pumps to dump untreated waste from the company's waste facility directly  into the Dong Dien River.


When police officers stormed the site, the workers fled. The officers found three high-capacity pumping machines that were dumping muddy and extremely smelly waste into the river.


They also discovered that the company was directly discharging treated waste into the river, while it is regulated that treated waste must be pumped into the industrial park's waste treatment facility for re-treatment before being discharged into the river.


The police summoned two deputy directors of the company for questioning, and the leaders confessed that the company had installed one pumping machine to discharge waste in 2008 and two others in 2010.


They told the police the pumps were operated two to three times a week, usually from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each time.


The company assigned many workers around its precinct to keep a watch while pumping the waste into the river and sound the alert in case there was a danger of being detected.


It is the 10th time the company has been caught for pollution related violations. Since 2009, it has been fined nine times, with the heaviest fine being VND340 million (US$16,125) in August 2012.


Most recently, around half a month ago, it was fined VND75 million ($3,557).


According to the police, the company's waste treatment system is old and degraded.

On October 24, two workers of the company named Ha Thanh Tai, 24, and Le Phat Tai, 28, and engineer Nguyen Minh Tuan, 29, were seen sinking into the waste treatment pond by other workers who had responded to their cries for help.

Fearing that the five-meter-deep pond, full of chemical substances, was too dangerous to enter in order to rescue the victims, the witnesses informed local agencies.

The agencies drained the chemicals from the pond, reported to be 200 square meters long and five meters deep, before retrieving the victims.

Tuan and Thanh Tai were reportedly working near the pond when they fell in. Phat Tai, who was working nearby, jumped in to rescue them.

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