Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has instructed relevant authorities to cooperate with international organizations to identify the cause of mass fish deaths along the central coast in the last two weeks.
“Many international organizations have the equipment, [we] can also learn from their experience,” he said at a meeting in Ha Tinh Province Sunday.
Huge numbers of fish have washed ashore in Ha Tinh and several neighboring provinces like Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, apparently killed by industrial effluents.
Suspicion has centered on Taiwanese firm Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company (FHS), a major firm in the Vung Ang Economic Zone, after it admitted a large sewage pipe going out into the sea belongs to it though it has claimed the wastewater it discharges is fully treated.
At the meeting, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam said his ministry and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment are still trying to find out what is killing the fish.
“The substance killing fish could be biological, chemical or anything else. It can also be toxic substances like cyanide.”
Dung admitted that official agencies have been slow in taking action, but exonerated them partly by saying this is the first time such large numbers of fish have been found dead.
“Any individual, organization or enterprise found causing the incident will be severely penalized handled. No one will be let off.”
He also instructed local authorities to support fishermen in the affected areas since fish consumption has plummeted.
Meanwhile, the Vietnam Environment Administration found that Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel cleaned its sewage pipes using toxic chemicals without informing authorities as required.
Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that a company spokesperson claimed all sewage cleaning substances had been treated before being discharged into the sea.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said that the company is permitted to discharge treated wastewater through the pipe.
“The drainage system is legal. The problem is what and how they [FHS] discharged,” deputy environment minister Vo Tuan Nhan said.
The Ha Tinh Department of Natural Resources and Environment has the task of monitoring the wastewater discharge.
But Nhan admitted to not knowing if the agency had installed a remote system to obtain random wastewater samples from the sewage system.