Fly ash from Formosa steel company (FHS) has passed quality assessments and can be used to produce cement, the environment ministry has said.

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Fly ash from Formosa safe for use as building materials: Ministry

May 22, 2018 - 09:00

 Fly ash from Formosa steel company (FHS) has passed quality assessments and can be used to produce cement, the environment ministry has said.

Inside one of Hà Tĩnh Formosa Steel’s production mill. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Ngà
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Fly ash from Formosa steel company (FHS) has passed quality assessments and can be used to produce cement, the environment ministry has said.

The ministry’s response came a few days after media reports that waste from the Hà Tĩnh-based manufacturer, the one responsible for the devastating 2016 marine ecological disaster in Central Việt Nam, was used in the production of a cement producer without approval from local authorities, raising safety concerns.

The reuse of the byproduct from combustion of coal, estimated at 16.4 million tonnes a year, is necessary to offset the environmental impacts of the country’s increasing reliance on thermal power, the Việt Nam Environment Administration (VEA) said.

According to reports, Sông Gianh Cement JSC in Tiến Hoá Commune of Quảng Bình Province has acquired Formosa’s waste to use as an additive in its cement products. The waste was delivered from Hà Tĩnh to Quảng Bình by the Lê Mai Transport and Commerce Ltd Co. However, speaking to Tiền Phong (the Vanguard) newspaper, heads of the two companies denied that they brought in waste from Formosa.

However, when the newspaper produced videos showing Lê Nam trucks going in and out of FHS, Nguyễn Văn Thành, director of Sông Gianh JSC, responded that Lê Nam’s transport of the fly ash was unauthorised and that his company had told Lê Nam that they should not acquire ash from FHS due to “sensitiveness surrounding this company,” referring to the simmering public anger over the company’s past irresponsibility in handling its waste—the main cause of the massive pollution incident in 2016.

Lê Thanh Hải, director of the Lê Nam transport company, later admitted the company indeed had deployed “a few trucks” to carry ash from FHS, as ash from the nearby Vũng Áng thermopower plant “was not sufficient.”

According to the Quảng Bình environment department, Sông Gianh JSC had asked the authorities for permission to buy fly ash from FHS, but the department has told the provincial authorities to refrain from giving permission to the company, also because of sensitivities towards Formosa.

Carefully regulated

VEA said the construction ministry’s official dispatch to FHS back in 2017 clearly stated that “the Government encourages the use of slag and ash from thermopower generation to produce building materials,” as per the Government Decision 452 in April 2017.

Experts contended that even though FHS’ fly ash passed the initial quality test by the environment authorities, this approval couldn’t be used as an inherent authorisation for the waste to be sold off, as every batch still needs to be inspected before it may be used for other purposes.

In addition, it was alleged that FHS bought coals from a variety of sources and could not ensure consistent quality of coals and the resulting ash.

VEA responded that since 2016, Formosa has maintained “stable import sources of coal” from Russia and Indonesia to operate its three coal-burning electricity generators. The coal was said to be high quality, with high purity and low sulphur content, producing little of the toxic ash.

Earlier this year, VEA received the request from Sông Gianh to use FHS waste to produce cement, and gave its approval on the condition that the materials must meet current technical demands and that the company has the responsibility to monitor the transport of ash by the Lê Nam company.

VEA said the reuse of fly ash was always encouraged by other countries, such as Japan and China. Quality ash would reduce the costs of cement while making the concrete stronger, it said.

The environment ministry in the coming time will continue pushing for the reuse of fly ash as well as proper inspection of such activities.  — VNS