Vietnam tannery gets record fine for toxic dumping

By Dinh Son - Dinh Phu, Thanh Nien News

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Pipes that carried untreated sewage from Hao Duong leather firm to a river in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Thanh/Thanh Nien News Pipes that carried untreated sewage from Hao Duong leather firm to a river in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Thanh/Thanh Nien News

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The Ho Chi Minh City municipal administration on Tuesday slapped a tannery with the heaviest punishment ever imposed on a polluter in the country – VND6.39 billion (US$300,330).
The city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment proposed the penalty last week against Hao Duong Company after it spent years discharging untreated toxic wastewater into Dong Dien River in Nha Be District.
The fine includes nearly VND4.4 billion ($206,800) that the company saved by not treating its waste, officials said.
The company pumped more than 437,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage into Dong Dien between January and October last year, the city found.
According to its contract with Hiep Phuoc Industrial Zone in Nha Be District, Hao Duong was supposed to pay the zone’s treatment plants VND10,050 for each cubic meter of sewage it treated.
Officials said Hao Duong produces around 24,000 tons of leather a year and discharges around 2,500 cubic meters of sewage a day, and has never treated any of its waste, the officials said.
They said the company's wastewater pollutants exceeded legal limits, ten-fold.
After making various warnings about its repeated violations, the HCMC government shut the company down in November of 2013 after police caught around ten workers operating a waste discharge pump.
Those familiar with the issue said there was only one pump in 2008, but two more were added in 2010. They were turned on two to three times a day, usually between 10 pm and 6 am.
Hao Duong's executives were given ten days to pay the penalty and clean up the area.
The city government has threatened to send task forces to employ more forceful measures like seizing the company's machines if it fails to meet its deadline.

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