Taiwanese MSG maker Vedan on Friday refused yet again to accept full responsibility for damage suffered by the Thi Vai River that experts said was primarily caused by the company’s discharge of untreated wastewater.
At a meeting attended by senior officials of the Vietnam Environment Administration in Hanoi, scientists concluded that Vedan caused more than 89 percent of the pollution to the Thi Vai River.
Nguyen Thanh Hung, an expert from the Natural Resources and Environment Institute of the Ho Chi Minh City National University, said the river began to be polluted in 1994 right after Vedan started its operations.
The pollution has since become more severe, reaching its peak in August last year when the company was found illegally dumping untreated wastewater into the river, Hung said.
Factories and industrial parks near the river all caused pollution but Vedan was the main culprit, he said.
Experts have said that Vedan has since cut back on production and invested more in its wastewater treatment, and the condition has improved.
Bui Ba Long, another scientist from the institute, said a research using Mike 21, one of the most modern data assessment models, has found that Vedan contributed 89.2 percent to the pollution of the Thi Vai River.
The Natural Resources and Environment Institute said in its report that the pollution of the river has negative impacts of different extents on a large natural area of 240 square kilometers, including 2,465 hectares of fish and shrimp ponds in Dong Nai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City.
Speaking at the meeting Friday, Vedan General Director Yan Kun Hsiang said his company did not agree with the finding that it caused more than 89 percent of the pollution.
Vedan was not the only polluter because many other companies had also discharged wastewater into the river, he argued. Moreover, the Natural Resources and Environment Institute research failed to take into consideration other sources of pollution such as residents’ domestic waste water and vehicles plying the river, he said.
The company, however, could not suggest another pollution figure when asked by the Vietnam Environment Administration, saying it does not have adequate statistics to do the calculation.
Luong Duy Hanh, deputy chief inspector of the administration, said the 89 percent rate reported by the Natural Resources and Environment Institute could be even lower than the actual rate as Vedan was the only company found discharging wastewater illegally into the river.
At the end of Friday’s meeting, Vedan admitted it had polluted the main part of the Thi Vai River, a stretch of about 10 kilometers, but rejected the conclusion that it caused more than 89 percent of the pollution.
In September, Vedan had rejected a compensation request of VND569 billion ($31.7 million) from farmers affected by the pollution. The company said it needed more evidence from the authorities and that the sum was too large.
Farmers associations said the damage reported by local farmers through 11,000 petitions was nearly VND1.23 trillion ($67 million), but they had agreed to demand only VND569 billion at first.
Once the Vietnam Environment Administration releases a figure on the damages and has it certified by the government, farmers will be able to file a lawsuit against Vedan, local news website VietNamNet quoted lawyer Nguyen Van Hau, who represents the HCMC farmers, as saying Tuesday.
Early this month farmers’ associations had complained that it was taking government agencies too long to release official estimates of the damages that farmers can use to take legal action against Vedan.
Reported by Quang Duan