Residents in Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam are worried after hearing that the country’s largest pulp mill will be releasing its wastewater into the sea when put into operation next year, even though the developer promised that the wastewater would be properly treated and safe for the environment.
Local residents are concerned that wastewater discharge from VNT19, the largest pulp mill in Vietnam located in Dung Quat Economic Zone, into Viet Thanh Bay will affect the environment and their livelihoods.
A meeting was convened at the People's Committee of Binh Son District, Quang Ngai on Wednesday morning to discuss and review the wastewater treatment system of the factory.
The developer stressed that the VNT19 pulp mill uses advanced equipment, technology, and production processes.
Its wastewater treatment system was properly funded, with Finland’s Aquaflow designing, providing the equipment, supervising the installation, and ensuring the standards.
This technical solution is capable of minimizing the impact of the wastewater on the environment.
The treatment system has the capacity of 50,000 cubic meters per day, and the harmful content in the treated wastewater is much lower than the regulated limits.
The discharge site is about one kilometer off the shore at Viet Thanh Bay, the developer continued, adding that the treatment system is designed with three separated reservoirs and modern monitoring systems, making it capable of dealing with any environmental incident.
Despite the assurance from the developer, local residents are still on tenterhooks.
Nguyen Van Hai, chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee in Binh Hai Commune, Binh Son District, stressed that the wastewater is toxic and the treatment process must be regularly supervised by local residents.
There should be a fish pond to make sure that the wastewater is properly treated.
Hai was also concerned that wastewater may change the color of the coastal water.
Some residents stated that the discharge area is near the coastal fishing area, thus their livelihood will certainly be at risk.
The discharge site should be at least 1.5 kilometers from the shore to prevent the wastewater from flowing into Le Thuy Beach, where people often take a swim, according to Thai Van Khiem, an official from Le Thuy fishing village.
The developer must regularly inspect the wastewater treatment machinery and hire experts to operate the treatment system during the initial stage, said Le Van Dung, an official from the provincial Party Committee.
Costing VND10 trillion (US$437.4 million), the VNT19 pulp mill covers an area of 117 hectares in Binh Phuoc Commune, Binh Son District, Quang Ngai.
The factory is expected to be put into operation in 2023 and will be the country’s largest of its kind with the capacity of 350,000 metric tons of pulp a year.
The project was previously listed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as having a high risk of environmental pollution.
It has also met with disapproval from local residents and environmental experts.