Ho Chi Minh City-based Hao Duong Leather Tanning JSC was caught discharging untreated wastewater into a river last Thursday, the latest of ten environmental violations committed by the company since December 2007, despite having been fined each time they committed the illegal act. The most recently violation was discovered on October 24 when anti-environmental crime police from the Ministry of Public Security and their counterparts in HCMC conducted a raid on the company and caught it releasing a large volume of untreated wastewater into the Dong Dien River behind it. The raid was made after police spent three months investigating and monitoring waste-treatment related activities of the company, located in Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park in Nha Be District. At the time of the raid, police found workers operating three large pumps to discharge stinking wastewater into the river, a branch of the Saigon River.
Police also found the company discharged partly untreated waste into the river, while according to applicable regulations, such waste must be transmitted to the industrial park’s waste treatment center for further treatment before it can be released into the environment.
This 2008 file photo shows the Dong Dien River polluted seriously by wastewater released from Hao Duong
Police reported their findings in the presence of two deputy directors of the company. According to police investigation, Hao Duong usually discharged untreated waste 2-3 times per week overnight, from 10 pm to 6 am, to avoid being discovered. To date, the company has been fined ten times, police said. The heaviest fine, VND340 million (US$16,000), was given by the city People’s Committee to the company on August 2012, and the latest fine, VND75 million, was given earlier this month. With the latest violation on October 24, the company will soon be fined for the tenth time.
Le Thi Ngoan, a local woman in Nha Be's Long Thoi Commune, told Tuoi Tre on October 30 that she could previously caught 10-15 kilogram of fish or shrimp from the river per day, but since Hao Duong operated, the amount has reduced by more than half."
This 2008 file photo shows Hao Duong releasing waste into the river
License revocation proposed With as many as ten violations of waste treatment and environmental protection regulations, Hao Duong is defying law enforcement agencies and the public opinion, polluting the living environment of local residents over the past six years, said lawyer Tran Hai Duc, from the HCMC Bar Association. Hao Duong has violated Item 5, Article 7 of the Law on Environmental Protection: “Discharging wastes not yet treated up to environmental standards; toxic, radioactive and other hazardous substances into the land or water sources.” The punishment for this is for the violator to be “banned from operation,” the lawyer said. Sharing the same view as the lawyer, a National Assembly deputy, Nguyen Thuy Trang, from HCMC, said that Hao Duong’s violations are very serious and unacceptable.
A local woman in Long Thoi Commune,Nha Be District, is seen on her small fishing boat on the polluted river
The company’s acts could do permanent damage to the Dong Dien River and severely affect the health of local residents, Trang said. The deputy demanded that competent agencies strictly punish the polluter and put an end to a situation in which a repeat offender is still allowed to operate after ten lawbreaking acts. Hao Duong must be suspended or have its operation licenses revoked, Trang said, adding that concerned agencies must assess damage caused by the company to the river and local residents and then request that the polluter pay compensation accordingly.