Vietnam leather firm suspended for dumping waste into river

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Ho Chi Minh City authorities have temporarily shut down a leather factory for dumping untreated waste into a river last month, the 10th time in four years it was caught committing gross environmental violations.

Le Manh Ha, deputy chairman of the city People's Committee, told the media Tuesday that Hao Duong Leather Joint Stock Company in the Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park in Nha Be District, has also been given a six-month deadline to repair the environmental damage it had caused.

If it fails to do so, it would be closed for good, he said.

The government has ordered the Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park to stop receiving waste from and supplying water to the company.

After surveilling the company for three months, the Ministry of Public Security's Environment Police Department on October 24 caught 10 workers operating pumps to dump untreated waste directly into the Dong Dien River.

When police officers stormed the site, the workers fled. The officers found three high-capacity pumps dumping muddy and strong-smelling waste into the river.

They also discovered the company directly discharging treated waste into the river. Treated waste has 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 for questioning, and they admitted that the company had installed one pump to discharge waste in 2008 and two more in 2010.

They said the pumps were operated two or three times a week from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Workers would be stationed as lookouts during the pumping to sound the alarm if detected.

Since 2009 the company has been caught for pollution and fined nine times, with the heaviest fine being VND340 million (US$16,125) in August 2012.

Just half a month ago it had been fined for its latest offence.

Whether the company would face criminal charges and be forced to compensate for affecting aquatic resources on the Dong Dien River depends on the results of the police's ongoing investigations, Ha, the city leader, said.

Preliminary investigations showed that the company had committed several other offences besides the environment-related ones, he added.

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