MONRE urges for continuous close monitoring of Formosa emission sources

Friday, 2017-07-14 10:20:21
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Fishermen in Ha Tinh province have resumed fishing activities after the marine environment was declared to be safe. (Credit: VNA)
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NDO – Results from a monitoring and evaluation programme for the marine environment in four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue after one year since the Formosa incident showed that the quality of the marine environment, including sea water and marine sediment, has been stabilised, in line with safety requirements for aquaculture, conservation of aquatic life, recreational swimming and water sports.

Announcing the results on July 13, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) said that pollutant parametres, which include total phenol and Fe levels, are all within the acceptable limits.

However, in order to further monitor and assess the quality of the coastal marine environment, the ministry proposed local authorities in the four central provinces to coordinate with the MONRE in continuing to closely inspect emission sources from the Chinese Taipei firm Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation.

At the same time, they were directed to implement periodical reporting of monitored results to the MONRE for publication to the public.

According to the ministry, immediately after the marine environmental incident in the four central coastal provinces in April of 2016 caused by the Formosa Ha Tinh, the MONRE co-chaired with relevant ministries, experts and scientists to conduct a comprehensive assessment of marine pollution, marine ecosystem degradation and causes for the environmental incident.

By September 2016, with the strict control of emission sources from Formosa Ha Tinh and due to natural cleansing, the content of pollutants from environmental degradation had somewhat decreased. The quality of the marine environment in all monitored areas was within the limits of regulation QCVN 10-MT: 2015/BTNMT, meeting the requirements for recreational swimming, water sports, aquaculture and aquatic conservation.

Since September 2016, the provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue have continued to implement periodical monitoring of the marine environments of 19 local beaches. The results of local monitoring to date show that most of the parametres are within the limits set out by QCVN 10-MT: 2015/BTNMT – the National Technical Regulation on sea water quality for aquaculture, aquatic conservation, beaches and water sports.

Tourists have returned to Thien Cam beach (Ha Tinh) after the Formosa incident in April of 2016. (Credit: VnEconomy)

During some periods, the level of Fe recorded at some beaches exceeded the limits under QCVN 10-MT: 2015/BTNMT. The reason was that during that time, due to the influence of flooding and rain, and the monitoring of sites being located near river mouths resulting in river flow sweeping Fe content from inland areas to the coastal areas, leading to the rise of Fe in sea water.

By May 2017, the MONRE implemented a programme monitoring and assessing the quality of the marine environment in the above four provinces. Launched from May 4-9 based on surveys conducted in 2016, the programme focused on areas with local vortices that are capable of dispersing substances in the water and accumulating toxins in sediments.

The monitoring results detected by MONRE in May 2017 showed that parametres in sea water were within the limits set by regulation QCVN 10-MT: 2015/BTNMT. For parametres of pollution during the occurrence of the incident – the total phenol and Fe levels and value of these parametres at all monitored sites were within the limits of QCVN 10-MT: 2015/BTNMT and much lower than the 2016 monitored results.

However, in some areas, the total value of mineral oil exceeded regulation QCVN 10-MT: 2015/BTNMT. These locations were mainly located in Vung Ang costal in Ha Tinh and Nhat Le in Quang Binh. This result is quite similar to the assessments of coastal water quality in Vietnam in recent years, as in some areas, coastal waters have been contaminated with mineral oil due to coastal industrial activities and the operation of seaports and sea traffic.

In regards to the marine sediment environment, all samples of marine sediments in MONRE's monitoring programme in May 2017 showed that all parametres were within the allowable limits of QCVN 43-2012 /BTNMT – the National Technical Regulation on sediment quality.

In April last year, mass fish deaths were recorded in four central Vietnamese provinces stretching from Ha Tinh to Thua Thien-Hue. Late in June, the Vietnamese government found Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation to be responsible for the incident. Leaders of the company apologised to the Vietnamese government and people and vowed to give US$500 million as compensation to the affected people, in order to help fishermen find new jobs, pay for the clean-up, and restore the marine environment.