The fire at Rạng Đông Light Source and Vacumm Flash JSC on August 28 had serious impacts on residents around the warehouse. Many were evacuated for fear of mercury contamination. — VNA/VNS Thành Đạt
HÀ NỘI — The Office of the National Committee for Disaster Response and Search and Rescue has sent an urgent dispatch to authorities in Hà Nội to co-ordinate with relevant agencies to quickly handle environmental issues after the fire at Rạng Đông Light Sources and Vacuum Flask JSC, said Lê Mạnh Tiến, deputy chief of the office.
Accordingly, the subcommittee for Disaster Response and Search and Rescue in Hà Nội was requested to submit a report on the response to the incident by 4pm on Monday.
It should propose the municipal People’s Committee co-ordinate with the Ministry of Defence and other agencies to promptly deal with environmental problems and ensure the health of residents in Thanh Xuân District and neighbouring areas.
On September 5, officials from the Institute of Military Institute of Chemistry and Environment, part of a chemical unit under the Ministry of Defence, have taken samples of soil, mud and ash from Rạng Đông JSC for testing.
After analysing the results, the unit would come up with a solution to collect and handle materials and chemicals from the burnt warehouse.
Once receiving approval from authorities, the Army would send personnel and equipment to deal with the hazard and ensure a safe environment for residents.
On August 28, a fire broke out at a light bulb warehouse owned by the company in Thanh Xuân District’s Hạ Đình Ward. Although firefighters rushed to the scene to extinguish the fire, a third of the 6,000 sq.m warehouse, with more than four million light bulbs, was destroyed. Losses were estimated at VNĐ150 billion (US$6.4 million).
The fire has raised public concern over exposure to mercury, a toxic metal that is used in fluorescent lights, caused by the fire.
At a press conference on September 4, the Việt Nam Environment Administration (VEA), under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said the level of mercury found in the vicinity of the destroyed light bulb factory has been deemed safe to human health.
The VEA said it has collected various samples of water, soil and air at different locations around the factory and found that only some samples collected within the burnt factory and at a radius of 200m from the site reported higher levels of mercury than allowed.
However, according to the latest information from the VEA, all 480,000 fluorescent lights destroyed in the fire contained 20mg of mercury per one bulb.
The firm said it has been using a mixture of metals to replace the mercury in its light bulbs and compact lamps since 2016.
Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Võ Tuấn Nhân told the conference that the air around and within the burned warehouse has evidence of mercury, which is 10-30 times higher than World Health Organisation’s permitted level.
Following the fire, Hà Nội People’s Committee and local authorities have implemented a number of measures to monitor air and water quality in the area.
The Rạng Đông JSC was asked to cover and isolate the areas at high risk of pollution to avoid the spread of chemicals.
It was also requested to collect ash from the fire and treat them in line with environmental standards.
Hà Nội Environmental Division under the Department of Natural Resources and Environment announced on Monday that test results on September 6 and 7 showed that five wastewater samples within a 100-metre radius of the fire had mercury levels at acceptable standards.
Six outdoor air samples collected from around the factory were found within permitted levels with no mercury recorded.
Trần Thị Nhị Hà, deputy head of Hà Nội’s Department of Health, said no symptoms have been found among 927 people who received free medical check-ups over the past three days. — VNS