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Soda production pollutes air, water in Quang Nam

Update: August, 04/2015 - 08:56
Residents' fish ponds have been contaminated with waste water from Soda Processing JSC. — Photo

QUANG NAM (VNS) — Residents in central Quang Nam Province's Nui Thanh District complain that their daily life has been disrupted by environmental pollution from the Chu Lai Soda Processing JSC.

The situation has been going on for two months since the company began operation in June.

Over 400 households in Tam Hiep Commune's Dai Phu Village have been affected by the water, air and noise pollution, said Le Minh Sa, head of Dai Phu Village.

"The old people suffer headaches and it's hard for children to concentrate on learning," he said.

"Fish have died en masse, they are floating all over the pond," Sa said, adding that the recent pollution incident was not the first occurrence.

Hundreds of residents gathered on July 17 at the company offices to ask for an explanation for the surge of pollution in their waters.

Two days later, the company stopped directly discharging waste water into the nearby Truong Giang River and neighborhood ponds. Now it is run through a waste treatment container before being dumped into the river.

Local residents said although the water is now being treated, the fish in the section of river already died en masse and so could not come back.

"We don't understand why the company discharges untreated wastewater into our ponds when the company has two waste water containers," said local resident Le Tam, 46.

The wastewater, however, was released not just into the river but also into residents' fish-breeding ponds located at the back of the factory, also killing all the fish.

Le Thi Hong, 46, said all the fish in her family's five ponds died on July 7. "My family lost about 250kg of fish," she said.

Local residents complained to the company many times and the company's leaders promised to settle the issues, but nothing has been done yet.

Everyday at 9pm, the company also emits fumes into the air, say local residents. The burning smell and chemicals in the air have made breathing difficult in the area.

Another Dai Phu Village resident, Doan Ngoc Dung, said, "We can't sleep at night. We can't watch television because we can't hear the voice due to noise is too loud," adding, "We also live with bad smells at night."

As soon as the local administration received complaints from local residents, it began work with state agencies to make a report and submit it to district authorities, said Nguyen Van Ninh, deputy chairman of Tam Hiep Commune's People's Committee.

At a June 24 meeting with the management board of Quang Nam Province's Chu Lai Open Economic Zone, and other agency and local representatives, the board requested the company compensate for the damage and coordinate a dialogue with local residents through local authorities.

The company pledged to stop discharging untreated waste water into the environment. However, one month later, the situation has yet to improve.

The Chu Lai Soda Processing JSC admitted in a signed document, that the excessive noise was due to gas and steam emissions from an experimental trial that has the company running at just 70 per cent capacity. Mysteriously, the company promised that once the factory is running at full capacity, the noise would decrease dramatically.

The company also offered another inadequate explanation for the burning sell. Supposedly it was due to a short-lived ammonia leak from a pipeline used to make soda ash. Residents, however, say the smell is a daily occurrence.

A representative of the company said all the environmental shortcomings will be settled in near future.

Local authority's statistics state that about 40 residents have died of cancer in the past three years, most due to lung cancer.

The local authorities suggested that responsible agencies move the 300 households living near the company to another location to relieve them.

The Chu Lai Soda Joint Stock Company is based out of a 20ha factory with a design capacity of 200,000 tones a year. It produces heavy and light soda ash used to manufacture construction-grade glass, industrial detergent, laundry detergent and paper. — VNS

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