Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered Ha Tinh Province authorities to tighten control over the discharge of wastewater by a Taiwanese steel plant, suspected to be responsible for mass fish deaths along the central coast.
He asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the provincial government to set up a monitoring station to check wastewater discharged from the plant of Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company, a major firm in Vung Ang Economic Zone.
The station will automatically collect and analyze samples from Formosa’s sewage pipe and will be linked to existing stations managed by Ha Tinh’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, according to a government statement released on Tuesday.
Phuc also ordered local authorities to provide rice and financial support to families of fishers affected by the deaths of both farmed and wild fish.
He called on the Ministry of Science and Technology and relevant agencies to work together to find out the causes as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Monday ordered its agencies in four central provinces affected by the disaster to take samples of seafood two or three times a day for testing to determine the level of heavy metals in local seafood.
A file photo shows part of a large sewage pipe going straight from Formosa's steel plant into the sea in Ha Tinh Province. Photo: Nguyen Dung/Thanh Nien
If tests find excessive content of heavy chemicals in the water, the provinces must immediately destroy all the seafood caught in the areas and issue warnings to fishers, the ministry said.
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.
The environment ministry has admitted that response to the disaster was slow.