Vietnam’s environment watchdog is inspecting a steel mill developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group to decide whether or not it can put a blast furnace into use, one year after the facility’s wastewater caused mass fish deaths the along country’s central coast.
The mass fish deaths, affecting four central provinces, was first recorded on April 6, 2016, but Formosa only admitted its responsibility in June the same year, pledging US$500mn in compensation.
The Taiwanese company has promised to fix all of its violations and make sure its steel mill, located in Ha Tinh Province, follows all environmental standards and requirements set by the Vietnamese authorities.
One year on, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has asked the question as to how Formosa has kept its word at a regular government meeting in Hanoi on Monday, and was told that the company has been correcting its mistakes.
“Formosa has fixed 51 out of 53 violations it was found to have,” Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung told Tuoi Tre, citing a report by the environment ministry.
Minister Dung added that as required by the government, local authorities in the four affected provinces, Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Thua Thien-Hue, have completed the task of distributing the Formosa compensation to fishermen impacted by the fish deaths.
A corner of the Formosa plant construction
More than 100 metric tons of fish were killed, and the environment, jobs and economies of the four provinces were severely affected between April and May last year.
The chairman of the Government Office said Formosa is only allowed to put the steel mill into use when the company meets all requirements for a safe, disaster-free operation.
“If they cannot ensure the safety for the facility’s operation, the mill will never be allowed to go into production,” Dung said, adding that this is “the consistent view of the government with regard to the Formosa issue.”
On Monday, an inspection team from the environment ministry began a three-day examination of the Formosa plant in Ha Tinh, checking various construction units at the facility to decide whether it would be allowed to put a blast furnace into use.
Inspectors are slated to check the plant’s wastewater treatment and chemical processing systems, as well as an air pollution monitor for the furnace, which will emit smoke through 15 chimneys.
The inspection is scheduled to finish on Wednesday, after which the environment ministry officials will discuss with a group of scientists to evaluate the effectiveness of the environmental technology at the steel mill.
The evaluation result will be submitted to the government, which will then decide the fate of the blast furnace.