Sonadezi treating toxic waste under dubious license

The Sonadezi Company is being accused of collecting billions of dong over the last ten years from several companies in the southern province of Dong Nai for waste treatment, under dubious licenses.

Entrance gate to the site where Sonadezi is said to have dumped thousands of tons of toxic waste in Bien Hoa 2 IZ (Photo: SGGP)

The State-owned Sonadezi Company, which is directly under the People’s Committee of Dong Nai Province, was asked by provincial authorities to build an industrial solid waste treatment complex on a total area of 100 hectares in An Vien and Giang Dien Communes in Trang Bom District.

The Company presented an environmental impact report on the complex project which was then approved by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment at the beginning of 2001.

However, the People’s Committee of Dong Nai did not issue the Company a license to handle toxic waste because the treatment complex was still not ready. The plant was yet to add many features like a plant to treat industrial solid waste, an oven to burn toxic waste and an area to bury the waste.

Nonetheless, the Company began collecting payments from several companies to transport their toxic waste for treatment. 

To cover up for this wrong doing, the People’s Committee of Dong Nai Province quickly issued licenses to the company on three occasions, so that it could operate as a toxic waste treatment company, from 2004-2006.

Sonadezi continued to collect thousands of tons of toxic waste, transporting it to a dump site in Giang Dien Commune as its own dumping site was still to be constructed.

By early 2008, the People’s Committee in Dong Nai Province realized that granting licenses to the Sonadezi Company meant a violation of environment law.

When the police and environment officials launched an inspection on the dump site in Giang Dien Commune and another site in Bien Hoa 2 Industrial Zone, they discovered that the toxic waste collected by Sonadezi from 30 companies in the province had piled up to 5,316 tons.

Sonadezi said that they had earned VND10 billion (US$476,000) from collections from companies and had spent the entire sum to construct their treatment facility. In actual fact, no such facility exists.

The Environment Protection Police under the Ministry of Public Security said that it was wrong of Sonadezi to store 5,316 tons of toxic waste, and also wrong of the provincial People’s Committee to issue licenses to the company. They believe that the Department of Natural Resources and Environment should have suspended all operations of the Sonadezi Company, a long time back.

Police officials have proposed to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to penalize and suspend the Sonadezi Company from collecting toxic waste. The company will then be forced to ask other legally licensed treatment companies to treat the 5,316 tons of toxic waste dumped in Giang Dien Commune and Bien Hoa 2 IZ.
 
However, the police proposals have yet to be carried out by Sonadezi and also authorized organizations in the province.

Way back in mid 2008, Sonadezi took advantage of a situation when authorities were concentrating on the ‘Vedan’ scandal, which was found releasing untreated wastewater into the environment. At that time Sonadezi offered to build a waste treatment plant in Quang Trung Commune of Trang Bom District. Once the plant was complete it would transport 5,316 tons of toxic waste for treatment.

Tons of suspected toxic waste is buried on land owned by Sonadezi Company on 19A Street in Bien Hoa 2 IZ (Photo: SGGP)

The proposal was quickly accepted and passed by the People’s Committee of Dong Nai Province. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in November 2009 agreed to the environmental impact report of the Quang Trung waste treatment complex.

The project investors were the Sonadezi Service Joint Stock Company, established in May 2007, in which Sonadezi had 15 percent stake.

According to documents gathered by Sai Gon Giai Phong, since early 2008, when the 5,316 tons of waste was uncovered until October last year, when Sonadezi Service was licensed by the Dong Nai Province People’s Committee to treat toxic waste, the Company has uninterruptedly collected, transported and handled waste from companies in the area.

This puts doubt on whether the toxic waste amount may even exceed much more than 5,316 tons.

SGGP uncovered a two hectare site full of toxic waste on 19A Street in Bien Hoa 2 IZ, right behind the Sonadezi Service Company, filled with thousands of tons of toxic waste buried underground.

The dumping site was earlier uncovered by authorized organizations but to date no concerted effort has been made to remedy this.

By Hoai Nam – Translated by Hai Mien

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