Formosa Plastics Corp’s (台塑) steel mill in Vietnam has met environment ministry conditions to start test runs, state television said yesterday, a year after a toxic spill from the plant caused the country’s worst environmental disaster.
State-run Vietnam television VTV said the ministry announced the conclusion after a three-day inspection visit of the plant. It will still require approval by the government before it can go ahead with tests of its first blast furnace.
A year ago, the US$11 billion Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp (台塑河靜鋼鐵興業) plant accidentally spilled toxic waste that polluted more than 200km of coastline, devastating sea life and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism.
Recovery on the coast has been slow and many communities remain angry about the spill and the pace of action to fix the problems.
Formosa has addressed 52 out of 53 violations identified in an official investigation into the spill, VTV cited the ministry as saying.
The remaining violation was its use of a “wet” coking system, which generates more waste than the more modern “dry” coking systems which do not use water as a coolant, but are more expensive.
A release of water from the wet system after a power failure was the cause of the toxic spill.
Formosa Ha Tinh is expected to put in place a dry coking system by 2019.
If the government decides to allow the plant to operate before the company finished fixing the wet coking system, it would be irresponsible, priest and activist Nguyen Thanh Tinh said.
“I’m really worried to know this. Maybe our fight to protect the environment will have to continue for a long time, but we surely will not give up,” he said.
Last year’s spill, and the delay in addressing it, triggered unprecedented rallies in Vietnam.
The company welcomed the environment ministry’s decision.
“This not only allows us to take the first step before we can start production, it also reaffirms our redoubled dedication to protecting the environment,” a plant executive said by telephone.