Police in Ha Tinh have launched a criminal investigation into the illegal burial of a huge amount of waste in the north-central province last month, with the Vietnamese unit of Formosa Plastics Group among the parties to be inspected.
On July 11, Le Trung Thanh, 28, was caught using an excavator to bury the waste at a farm in Ky Anh town.
Thanh works for the Ky Anh Town Urban Environment Co., and the farm where the waste was buried is the property of the company’s director Le Quang Hoa.
With the waste transported from the steel plant operated by Formosa to the farm for burial, the local unit of the Taiwanese firm is also under investigation, according to officers.
It was initially reported that more than 100 metric tons of waste had been buried at the farm.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment along with local authorities in Ha Tinh later found that Formosa had also buried its waste at several other locations.
In the end, authorities collected more than 390.72 metric tons of waste, which has been properly sealed and stored to serve the investigation.
The ministry of environment has taken 38 mud waste samples and 30 soil samples, as well as water sources from the burial sites for testing.
According to police, the business license granted to Ky Anh Co. does not include industrial waste treatment designation, so the waste dumping contract it signed with Formosa is against the law.
Similarly, Formosa also violated regulations to contract an unlicensed entity to treat its waste.
The buried wastes are retrieved for investigation.
Bui Dinh Quang, deputy director of the Ha Tinh police department, said that highly toxic cyanide has been found among the mud waste samples of the Formosa facility.
“The cyanide content exceeds the hazard level, so we decided to begin an probe into this case,” Quang said.
The official added that the investigation will also consider the responsibility of state agencies responsible for overseeing the waste treatment activities of Formosa.
The environment ministry has requested that Formosa Ha Tinh collaborate with Ky Anh Co. to find an eligible agency to properly treat the 390.72 metric tons of cyanide-laced waste.
Formosa will have to cover all expenses arising from the treatment, according to the ministry.
The waste burial scandal has came hot on the heels of a high-profile environmental disaster caused by the Vietnamese unit of Formosa.
The Taiwanese company admitted on June 30 that its untreated wastewater was the cause of the mass fish deaths along four coastal provinces between April and May, promising to pay US$500 million in compensation.