HA TINH (VNS) — For at least 40 years, hundreds of households in Huong Khe District in the central province of Ha Tinh have had to survive using water resources contaminated with petroleum.
Nguyen Duc Dang, a resident living in Huong Khe Town, told Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper that his family had no choice but to rely on five wells, all contaminated with petroleum, for water used for daily consumption, despite its heavy smell of petrol and the thick oil scum that covered the yellowish water beneath.
"All of our wells give out a strong smell of petrol. The water even burned after we put fire near it," Dang said.
The petroleum was reported to have contaminated water resources across the district, concentrating in Huong Khe Town, Ha Linh and Huong Long communes.
Huong Long Commune was the most affected, with more than 300 wells contaminated with petroleum and another 400 hectares of inhabited land and ponds that were unusable for farming due to heavy pollution.
Historical archives revealed that a petroleum storage station was built in Huong Long Commune between 1964 and 1972 during the American War. The petrol line was broken due to heavy bombardment in the war and leaked a considerable amount of petrol underground. The petroleum then gradually contaminated the underground water and followed the water flows to other areas across Huong Khe District.
The contaminated water prevented residents from being able to improve their living conditions for decades.
"All the families here tried to farm fish, but either they could not grow or they were just inedible due to the strong smell of petrol," said resident Le Cong At in Huong Khe Town.
Besides the animals' problems, many residents were worried about their own health, especially after reports of a high number of cancer cases in the affected areas.
Statistics by the Huong Long Commune Medical Station indicate that more than 20 people in the commune died of cancer since 2007. A number of families even lost two or three members to cancer. Apart from cancers, a number of residents were also reported to have died from cirrhosis and skin diseases.
Huong Khe District Health Division Head Phan Van Thuan said that water being contaminated with petroleum meant that there were very high levels of lead and it poses a serious danger to residents. Using such contaminated water over a long period would cause great harm to humans.
He said that he was not informed of any test results of the water in the contaminated areas, if they were ever conducted.
Rain water was life-saving for the residents during the rainy season, yet when the dry season came, residents had to travel to neighbouring areas, which could be as far as five kilometres, to ask for clean water.
A project by the provincial Water Supply Plant to deliver clean water to the residents in affected areas has recently been undertaken, and was expected to be completed in the first six months of this year. — VNS