The results of a study released Monday show that Vietnam’s central coast is again safe for swimming and aquaculture, four months after toxic effluents discharged by Taiwan-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp caused mass fish deaths.
Prof Mai Trong Nhuan of the Hanoi National University, who headed the study commissioned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said that coastal areas in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces have been recovering gradually.
The presence of the toxic substance has reduced by 90 percent in samples taken in July and August and coral reefs are recovering, he said at a conference held in Quang Tri by the environment ministry and the Vietnam Institute for Science and Technology.
Aquatic creatures are returning and the ecosystem is recovering, he said.
According to the study, contamination in most areas is well within the limits deemed safe for swimming, aquaculture and aquatic conservation.
Several areas need further monitoring, including near Ha Tinh’s Son Duong Port, Quang Binh’s Nhat Le Beach and Thua Thien Hue’s Son Cha Island since dissemination of the toxic substance in these areas is slow due to specific current patterns.
Coral reefs and marine creatures, which saw a significant decline, have made a recovery, the study found.
Prof Tran Nghi of the Hanoi University of Natural Sciences said it was the first stage of the study.
“We are waiting for the second stage results that will show if fish are safe and the sea has recovered fully.”
Environmental chemistry expert Friedhelm Schroeder of the Germany-based Center for Materials and Coastal Research said the study is highly credible.
Schroeder, who consults Vietnamese agencies on the environment crisis, said there are small fishes along the coast of the four central provinces.
But there should be frequent tests by the health ministry and foreign agencies on fish safety, he said.
An estimated 70 tons of dead fish washed ashore along more than 200 kilometers of coast in April.
Formosa, a subsidiary of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics, has been held responsible and pledged compensation of US$500 million.
The government said the disaster has harmed the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen.
Formosa had dumped wastes containing phenol, cyanide and iron hydroxides in the water, the government said.