A Taiwanese-owned company last week found discharging untreated wastewater into a northern Vietnamese river said it was forced to do so to survive after last year's economic crisis.
In an interview published on the news website VnExpress Sunday, Liu Chien Lin, deputy director general of Tung Kuang Joint-stock Company, said by dumping untreated wastewater to the Ghe River in Hai Duong Province, his company could save VND80-100 million (US$4,209-5,261) a month.
Before adopting this solution, the aluminum frames manufacturer had already sacked nearly half its workforce and cut down on expenditure, but it still faced great difficulties given expensive raw materials against products' cheap prices, he told the news source.
According to Liu, during his term of office, the underground pipe to release untreated wastewater which was set up before he held the position in 2004 wasn't restarted until October, 2008.
Since then Tung Kuang discharged wastewater one to two times per month, usually when it was heavily raining to lessen its toxicity, Liu stressed.
Although it was not right to do so, they couldn't help it, because it was the only way to "save" themselves, Tung Kuang, Liu was quoted as saying by VnExpress.
However, after being discovered by the Ministry of Public Security's Environment Police Department (C36) last Wednesday, the company would remove the pipe on Monday, he said.
The deputy director general also said the company would follow C36's orders and treat wastewater properly before discharge.
But Nguyen Ngoc Sinh, chairman of Vietnam Association for Conservation of Environment and Nature, was quoted by Vietnam News as saying Tung Kuang's excuse for its actions was "scary".
The interview had also outraged the public, Vietnam News reported.
Nguyen Dinh Hoe from the environment association said whatever the excuse, Tung Kuang's acts must be punished strictly.
In the meantime, related agencies were conducting more tests on samples taken from wastewater released by Tung Kuang, which was once fined VND100 million (US$5,256) in 2007 for dumping untreated waste.
Initial tests showed that it contained excessive toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen hexavalent chromium.
C36 deputy head Luong Minh Thao said Tung Kuang's violation was comparable to that of Taiwanese-owned MSG maker Vedan Vietnam, which in 2008 was found to have been releasing toxic and untreated wastewater into the southern province of Dong Nai's Thi Vai River for 14 years.
Vedan Vietnam is now facing claims for damages costing over VND1.3 trillion (US$68.4 million) from affected farmers in Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai and the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau.