'We will not shield anyone' in mass fish deaths: Vietnam PM

By Nguyen Dung - Khanh Hoan, Thanh Nien News

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Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at a meeting in Ha Tinh Province on May 1, 2016. Photo: Nguyen Dung Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at a meeting in Ha Tinh Province on May 1, 2016. Photo: Nguyen Dung

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has told authorities investigating the mass fish deaths in the last few weeks in four central provinces to take no prisoners.
"We will not shield anyone found causing the pollution," he said at a meeting in Ha Tinh Province Sunday with the participation of all deputy PMs, several Cabinet members, the central bank governor, and leaders of the affected provinces.
“This is a very new problem that has affected people’s lives and properties, businesses and the environment and national security.”
He criticized the tardiness of local authorities in finding solutions and central agencies in releasing information about the disaster to the media and public.
He ordered the Ministry of Science and Technology to work with other agencies and foreign experts to identify the reason for the mass fish deaths.
He instructed the Ministry of Public Securities to find out if any company violated environment protection regulations in the region.
He ordered local authorities to strengthen screening of production facilities on the coast to ensure they do not discharge untreated waste into the environment.
“We are reviewing all facilities without exception, including Formosa.”
Safe waters
On Sunday the Vietnam Environment Administration announced that water samples taken off the coast in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien – Hue all proved to be safe.
The samples taken from four beaches over several days, the agency said.
The Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and Health have confirmed that offshore seafood is safe for human consumption.
“[Seafood in] offshore waters, 20-30 nautical miles off the coastline, are safe. This is not an assumption but a result of our scientific research, monitoring and supervising,” Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said.
Government agencies are testing seafood for safety right at fishing ports in the region to ensure safety, he said.
Hundreds of tons of fish have washed ashore in recent weeks in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien - Hue, apparently killed by industrial effluents.
Suspicion has centered on Hung Nghiep Formosa Steel Company, a major company in the Vung Ang Economic Zone, which admitted it has a large sewage pipe going straight into the sea but claimed all its discharged wastewater is treated.
A diver working at the company port in Ha Tinh was diagnosed with copper poisoning, and many others are now getting themselves tested.

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