The Vietnamese steel business of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group has made amends for 52 out of their 53 errors that had led to the environmental disaster in central Vietnam last April, the Vietnam Environment Authority has said.
The announcement came during a meeting to review the role of religious institutions in Vietnam in environmental protection and climate change adaptation efforts in 2016.
The meeting, hosted by the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, saw the participation of 40 religious leaders from 14 recognized religions and faiths across Vietnam.
According to Hoang Van Thuc, deputy director of Vietnam Environment Authority under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, remedial efforts are being rolled out quickly to repair the damage done by Formosa-related pollution.
Last April, mass fish deaths were reported in four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien – Hue, which were later found to be caused by toxic wastewater from the nearby Formosa steel plant.
The Taiwanese firm took responsibility for the disaster, pledging to provide US$500 million in monetary support to the affected provinces, which had been received by Vietnamese Government last August.
Eighty-five percent of the amount have already been given to residents in the four provinces hit by the disaster, with the rest slated to be handed out in June.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has been tasked with heading and collaborating with other departments and administrations of the four affected provinces to monitor Formosa’s wastewater discharge,” Thuc said.
“We requested that Formosa correct 53 errors with their steel plant. So far, they have made amends to 52 of them.”
Regarding the remaining error, which concerns the firm’s change from a wet metalstamping method to a dry one, the Vietnamese Government has given Formosa three years to make the switch, Thuc said.
“This new technology is expected to be finished by June 2019,” he added.
In addition, Formosa is required to add seven environmental protection items to their plant under the Ministry’s close supervision. The firm has spent around $346 million working on these items so far, the deputy director said.
Among these seven items are four online automated wastewater monitoring stations, which displays status on 15 indicators to make sure the waste is safe it is discharged into the ocean.
Fifteen out of 23 chimneys at Formosa steel plant have also been installed, the readings from which are sent regularly to Ha Tinh Department of Natural Resources and Environment and Vietnam Environment Authority for monitoring.
“While waiting for the dry metalstamping technology to be put into use, we have requested that Formosa use clean water for the wet process to avoid evaporating pollutants into the air,” Thuc said.
The Ministry and Ha Tinh’s administration have also established a joint permanent committee that will work with local experts and scientists to oversee Formosa’s operations.
Apart from 24/7 online monitoring, the committee will be taking samples of the plant’s wastewater three times a day to test for their safety. So far, all indicators have shown that the wastewater meets Vietnam’s environmental standards.