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Wastewater plant poses health risk

Update: July, 09/2012 - 10:28


A view of the Binh Hung wastewater treatment plant. Households in District 8 and Binh Chanh District, who live not far from the plant, said they would sue the company if nothing was done to stop the unpleasant smell emanating from the facility. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phan
HCM CITY — Thousands of households in HCM City have been facing health risks due to horrible smells emanating from the Binh Hung wastewater treatment plant - the one with the largest capacity of its kind in Viet Nam.

Affected households in District 8 and Binh Chanh District, who live not far from the location of the plant, said they would sue the company if nothing was done to stop the smell.

In 2008, the plant worth more than VND4.1 trillion (US$196 million) in Binh Chanh District's Binh Hung Commune went into operation. With its capacity of up to 141,000 cubic metres of water per day, the plant was expected to collect and treat wastewater from 425,000 residents in four main districts of the city and improve the living environment of more than 2 million of residents near Ben Nghe, Tau Hu channels and Sai Gon River.

However, after three years of operation, the environmental protection project has been causing horrible smells for surrounding households. Last year, local residents sent letters of complaint to the authorities but the situation didn't improve.

Nguyen Anh Tu, local resident in Dai Phuc Residential Area in Binh Hung Commune, told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper that he and other villagers had been tortured by the terrible smell day and night although his house was 1km away from the plant, instead of 50 metres as required.

"We have to breathe the unbearable smell. It's much more dangerous to our health than wastewater or mud pollution," he said.

"It's high time the city authorities revised the distance regulation between the plant and residential areas. We'll sue if the plant doesn't solve the problem."

Nguyen Thanh Son, local resident in Dai Phuc Residential Area, said the smell spread out within a radius of 5km, and those who breathed the air felt dizzy and sick.

Ly Tho Dac, deputy director of the HCM City Water Sewage Co Ltd has provided a document that outlines the reasons for the air pollution being connected to the plant's mud treatment system.

Stored mud was uncovered and buried after 15 days of fermentation. Thus, the smell was unavoidable.

The company has used chemicals to minimise the spread of the smell, but they have been ineffective. The varying temperature and the rainy season had increased the amount of organic in waste and worsened the situation, he said.

Nguyen Thi Quang Suong of Binh Hung Commune's People's Committee said the inspection implemented by the local authorities and environmental police last August showed the same results, adding that the committee required the plant to spray chemicals to keep the number of mosquitoes and flies down in the mud storage area.

Suong said in response to the locals' complaint the committee had took samples of water and mud for testing to find reasons for the recent increase in pollution. It would also report the case to the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment for further solutions when the results were revealed.

To deal with the situation, according to Dac, the company would take some temporary measures, such as mixing mud with rice husks or installing more odour absorption facilities in the storage areas to reduce the smell. — VNS

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