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Pesticide cleanup halted after residents spot water leak

Update: July, 07/2014 - 08:25

THANH HOA (VNS) — The Natural Resources and Environment Department of central Thanh Hoa Province temporarily suspended Nicotex Thanh Thai Company from treating 709 tonnes of pesticide-contaminated soil in Cam Thuy District's Cam Van Commune after local residents'complaints.

Do Chi Bao, who lives in the commune, discovered water overflowing from a hole used to treat the pesticide-contaminated soil last Tuesday.

"That night, local residents smelled pesticides in the air," he said.

When the company was found dumping expired chemicals and pesticides in 10 areas in the commune last August, they were fined more than VND421 million (US$20,000) and instructed to treat the soil. However, those living near the treatment site were not allowed to watch the treatment, Pham Viet Long, head of the communal supervision team, told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

"We found that the company was not separating untreated soil from treated soil as they were supposed to," he said. "We wonder what type of chemical was used to deal with the pesticide-contaminated soil and whether the company used enough of it."

Long said at a meeting held on Tuesday among the environment department and local authorities of the district and commune that only the provincial People's Committee had the right to decide who conducted the treatment. The environment department was not allowed to make such decisions.

"So when untreated soil is mixed with treated soil, causing environmental pollution and harming human health, which agency is responsible?" he said.

Decision 1871/QD/UBND, approved by the provincial People's Committee on June 17, stated that the treatment aimed to minimise the quantity of toxic substances, as well as their effect on the surrounding environment and human health, as quickly as possible.

The decisions also required that the treatment not create additional environmental pollution.

The treatment process involves packaging pesticide-contaminated soil and pouring it into an area lined with a thick geotextile layer. After three to five days, chemicals are sprayed over the contaminated soil, which is then irrigated with hydrogen peroxide.

Company director Nguyen Dinh Thong told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper that the company wanted to let the communal supervision team participate in the treatment to ensure transparency and had asked the provincial People's Committee to consider this.

Explaining the overflowing of water from the hole to treat the pesticide-contaminated soil, Thong said it was "only an incident".

The smell of pesticides did not come from the water, but from a nearby warehouse belonging to the company, he added. — VNS

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