Some 100 scientists helping Vietnam crack fish death mystery: environment ministry

Thanh Nien News

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Officials have promised that findings from an inspection at a Taiwanese steel firm will be soon made public


Formosa steel plant in Vung Ang Economic Zone, Ha Tinh Province. Photo: Khanh Hoan/Thanh Nien
Vietnam's environment ministry has invited around 100 experts to investigate an environmental disaster that has killed tons of fish and affected thousands of families in fishing villages along the central coast.
It announced on Wednesday that it had established a national council to find the causes of the mass fish deaths.
The council has sought assistance from around 100 experts from more than 30 local institutes and universities, as well as experts from Israel, Germany and the United States.
It also sent samples of water and dead fish to laboratories in Japan, Switzerland and the US for testing.
According to the ministry, scientists have ruled out diseases, oil spills, thermal shock and other aftermaths of earthquakes as possible causes of the fish kill, which first reported last month.
They are now focusing on biological and chemical substances that may have killed the fish in four central provinces.
The same day, the ministry sent inspectors to Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province to check all companies operating there as part of efforts to solve the environmental disaster.
On Wednesday, a team of inspectors visited Taiwanese-invested Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company. The large firm in Vung Ang has been accused of discharging toxic wastewater, a claim it has repeatedly rejected.
The inspectors are expected to work with Formosa in four days to test the company's wastewater.
Officials have promised that the results of inspection will be made public.
In a new development on Wednesday, residents found the water along a 1.5-km stretch of a beach in Quang Binh Province’s Bo Trach District turning red at around 7:30 a.m. The color then gradually changed and became normal at around 11 a.m.
Seawater turns red in a 1.5-km stretch of a beach in Quang Binh Province’s Bo Trach District on May 4, 2016. Photo: Nam Hai
Local authorities took the water samples for testing. Scientists have been invited to investigate the phenomenon.
The provincial environment department has warned residents not to swim in the area or source the water for their fish farms, until test results are announced.
Hundreds of tons of fish were washed ashore in early April in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces, apparently killed by industrial effluents.
Suspicion has centered on Formosa, which admitted it has a large sewage pipe going straight into the sea. But it claimed all its discharged wastewater had been treated.
Officials have said they could not find any connection between Formosa's discharge and the disaster yet.
Vietnamese across the country have been anxiously waiting for a satisfying answer for the prolonged case, which has tested the ability of the country to detect and handle large-scale disasters. 

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