HCM CITY — Hundreds of tonnes of hazardous waste are discharged into the environment daily in HCM City because of a shortage of treatment facilities as well as lax management, according to city authorities.
An estimated 350-600 tonnes of hazardous waste from industrial production and nine to 12 tonnes from hospitals are discharged daily, according to figures from the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment
Hazardous waste, which can be found in different physical states as liquids, solids, gases or sludge, presents immediate – and long-term risks to public health and the environment.
The growth rate of hazardous waste is increasing 10-12 per cent a year, with the department predicting the city will have an average of 400,000 tonnes of hazardous waste per year from 2015. The department and the Environmental Protection Administration have licensed 50 companies to transport hazardous waste and 10 factories to treat hazardous waste.
Huynh Minh Nhut, director of the Urban Environment One-Member State-Owned Limited Company, said the figures showed that the total amount of hazardous waste had greatly exceeded the city's treatment ability.
Nhut said the city could treat 30 tonnes of hazardous waste per day, accounting for only one-twentieth of the discharge.
As a result, many companies had to pay between VND12 million and VND14 million each to hand over and treat this kind of waste.
Nhut said many of them had hired trucks to transport hazardous waste and discharge it into the environment, and had purposefully mixed hazardous waste with residential waste.
A representative of the Environment Police's Crime Prevention Department, also known as PC49, said treatment factories gave priority to hazardous waste that can be recycled in order to increase their profits.
Waste that is difficult to treat and has to be burned at high temperatures is usually "refused," according to the representative.
In addition, many companies sign contracts for nothing with other companies or factories whose function is hazardous waste treatment.
Under such agreements, companies every quarter pay an amount of money to the treatment unit but hand over only one or several tonnes of waste, just for form's sake.
In fact, most of these companies have their waste transported and discharged into the environment, usually in Long Binh Ward in District 9. Alternatively, several treatment units agree to treat waste at low prices but transport the waste to empty fields to burn or simply let it pile up.
In order to solve the problem, the city People's Committee at many meetings have urged appropriate authorities to ask for investment in this field.
Huynh Minh Nhut of the Urban Environment company said it had invested in a treatment factory with capacity of 21 tonnes per day.
The company charges VND2.5 million to VND6 million per tonne to treat hazardous waste.
The amount of waste delivered to the company had increased, but the factory was still only treating about one tonne of hazardous waste a day, according to Nhut.
Previously, the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment had urged the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to issue regulations on the licensing of transport and treatment of hazardous waste produced by companies in the city.
Many unlicensed waste-treatment companies do not report the treated quantity or the treatment method to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Le Thi Kim Oanh, deputy chief inspector of the HCM City Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the department would inspect all treatment companies in mid-August to help improve management of treatment quality.
Oanh, however, noted that would not really solve the problem. Instead, the city needs to improve management and licensing. — VNS