Formosa under fire over Vietnam mass fish deaths

April 26, 2016, 12:04 am TWN

HANOI — Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa was under attack in Vietnam’s normally staid state-media Monday over allegations of industrial pollution leaching from a multibillion-U.S.-dollar steel mill that may have caused mysterious mass fish deaths.

Tonnes of dead fish, including rare species which live far offshore and in the deep, have been washing up on beaches along the country’s central coast, causing public alarm and hitting local fishermen.

State-run media coverage has focused on a 1.5 kilometer (one mile) waste water pipeline which runs directly from Formosa’s multibillion-U.S.-dollar steel plant in Ha Tinh into the ocean.

The Taiwanese company this week said local communities needed to consider whether they value marine life or foreign investment in the area more.

“You cannot have both,” Chou Chun Fan, Formosa Ha Tinh’s external relations manager told state-run VTC14 television channel, speaking in Vietnamese.

“(You) need to choose whether to catch fish and shrimp or to build a state-of-the-art steel mill,” he said, according to a video of the interview posted online.

Although the pipeline itself is legal, Formosa is only permitted to discharge treated waste water into the ocean, according to a report in the state-run Thanh Nien newspaper.

“The problem is what and how (Formosa) discharged,” from the waste-water pipe, Deputy Environment Minister Vo Tuan Nhan said, according to the report.

The report also said that Formosa had imported some 300 tonnes of toxic chemicals to clean the waste-water pipeline, a shipment the Vietnam Environment Administration said it was not informed of. The report did not say whether the chemicals had been used.