Toxic Floods From Coal Mines and Power Plants Hit Vietnam's Ha Long Bay World Heritage Site
Ongoing downpours in northeastern Vietnam have resulted in toxic spills and flooding from multiple coal mine and power plant sites in the province surrounding the Ha Long Bay World Heritage Site.
“The likelihood of both immediate and ongoing health and environmental hazards for locals and the rare environment are clearly increasing by the hour and the scale of this event cannot be understated,” said Donna Lisenby, Clean and Safe Energy campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance.
The events of the last few days appear to be getting worse with news reports of severe flooding inundating the Lang Khanh harbor area and Dien Vong river with fresh leakages from the Quang Ninh coal-fired power plant. This coal plant is located on the waterfront that connects directly to world renowned Ha Long Bay world heritage site (see this map).
“A disaster response team from the government has been deployed which is encouraging but we are deeply concerned by the pace of this unfolding disaster and its sheer scale,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance.
Ha Long Bay is surrounded by 5,736 hectares of open pit coal mines and three coal-fired power plants. They are already flooded with more rain predicted for the next seven days.
“We again urge the Government and encourage UNESCO, and the international community to get involved and protect Ha Long Bay from further pollution by coal mines and coal-fired power plants,” said Kennedy. “We need to see all parties acting decisively to protect the growing number of local communities and this pristine World Heritage Site that are facing clear and present danger.”
“Waterkeeper Alliance knows from firsthand experience around the world that coal mining and generation sites are ‘monster waste generators’ of the worst kind,” said Lisenby. “These coal waste facilities are ticking time bombs if they are not properly constructed to withstand large rainfall events, which are already increasing in frequency, duration and intensity in line with climate science predictions."
The coal industry generates massive amounts of waste that can contain a wide array of materials dangerous to human health and the environment including heavy metals like arsenic, boron, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, selenium and thallium.
Dr. Aaron Bernstein, instructor in pediatrics at Harvard University Medical School said:
"Floodwaters flowing from open pit coal mines likely contain a slurry of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium and lead, as well as other harmful substances. We also know from past research that the soils in this region of Vietnam may be contaminated with these same pollutants, which may be mobilized by floods as we saw in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. So, in addition to the usual harms that may immediately follow severe flooding such as traumatic injuries, outbreaks of waterborne disease, or death, the floods around Quang Ninh carry the potential to exact permanent damage to the developing nervous systems of children which are uniquely vulnerable to these toxic elements."
Cam Pha City has already been flooded with an avalanche of coal mining waste and a second community is being evacuated (see map here). News photos and video footage from Cam Pha show men, women and children wading through thick mud contaminated with coal waste as they flee their homes.
Waterkeeper Alliance has experienced a dramatic rise in the number of coal-related water spill disasters we have responded to since 2008. These include:
- The largest known coal ash waste spill in world history in December of 2008 from the Tennessee Valley Authority coal plant in Kingston, Tennessee. See this story for an interview with Donna Lisenby, Waterkeeper Alliance's Clean & Safe Energy campaign manger who was the first person to collect samples at the spill proving that it contaminated the Emory river with toxic heavy metals.
- The largest coal slurry spill in Canadian history on Halloween night in 2013. See stories here, here and here written by Waterkeeper Alliance Clean Safe Energy campaign manager.
- A January 2014 coal chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia that poisoned the drinking water of 300,000 people. See story here.
- The largest coal ash spill in North Carolina history by Duke Energy into the Dan River in February of 2014. See stories here, here, here and here that document Waterkeeper Alliance's response to that spill and all the toxins found as a result of our water testing. The Dan River spill and ongoing investigation by Waterkeeper Alliance into illegal coal water pollution by Duke Energy at other sites in North Carolina resulted in their criminal conviction for nine clean water act violations.
- This is a story about how Waterkeeper Alliance responds when disasters like these strike.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The 2020 hurricane season is now expected to be the most active since at least the early 1980s, meteorologists at Colorado State University, a standard bearer for seasonal hurricane predictions, announced Wednesday.
Three years ago, scientists predicted it would happen. Now, new NASA satellite imagery confirms it's true: two ice caps in Canada's Nunavut province have disappeared completely, providing more visual evidence of the rapid warming happening near the poles, as CTV News in Canada reported.
- Climate Explained: What the World Was Like the Last Time Carbon ... ›
- Polar Bears Could Be Nearly Gone by 2100, Study Finds - EcoWatch ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Melting at Rate That Surpasses Scientists ... ›
By Katell Ané
The European Commission launched a new Farm to Fork strategy in an effort to reduce the social and environmental impact of the European food system. It is the newest strategy under the European Green Deal, setting sustainability targets for farmers, consumers, and policymakers.
Facebook and Twitter removed posts by President Donald Trump and his campaign Wednesday for violating their policies against spreading false information about COVID-19.
- Rare Inflammatory Disease Linked to More Than 100 Childhood ... ›
- COVID-19: What Experts Think About Reopening Schools - EcoWatch ›
- Teens and Tweens Are Fastest COVID-19 Spreaders, New Study ... ›
- Researchers Are Creating a Drone to Study Wild Dolphins With Help ... ›
- These Whales Are Suffering a Slow-Motion Extinction - EcoWatch ›
By Alexander Freund
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says he believes Tuesday's explosion in Beirut could have been caused by large quantities of ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
- 5 Ways to Keep Unhealthy Nitrates and Nitrites Out of Your Body ... ›
- The Price of Our Fertilizer Addiction - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Disturbing Facts About Monsanto's Evil Twin—The Chemical ... ›
By Michelle D. Holmes
Most Americans know about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans primarily through their colorful representations: the original food pyramid, which a few years ago morphed into MyPlate. The guidelines represent the government mothering us to choose the healthiest vegetables, grains, sources of protein, and desserts, and to eat them in the healthiest portions.
As innocuous as the food pyramid and MyPlate seem, they are actually a matter of life and death.
- 6 Powerful Ways to Improve Mental Health - EcoWatch ›
- New, Improved Vegetarian and Vegan Food Pyramid - EcoWatch ›
- Dr. Mark Hyman: Here's How the Food Pyramid Should Look ... ›