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Coal ash creates huge pressure

Some four milllion tons of untreated coal ash discharged from Vinh Tan 2 thermal power plant in Tuy Phong District, Binh Thuan Province, is causing serious concern among provincial authorities.

Vinh Tan 2 thermal power plant in Binh Thuan Province
Vinh Tan 2 thermal power plant in Binh Thuan Province

Meanwhile, the Vinh Tan 4 and Vinh Tan 1 power plants in the same power cluster — Vinh Tan Power Center — have started commercial operations, and the extended Vinh Tan 4 plant is 70% complete. However, there are no facilities available to treat the coal ash they produce.

The Vinh Tan 2 plant has two generators with a combined generation capacity of 1,244 megawatts. The two generators consume over 14,000 tons of coal and discharge some 3,500-4,000 tons of ash per day.

Long lines of trucks transport coal ash from the Vinh Tan 2 and Vinh Tan 1 thermal power plants to the ash dumps every day.

Ash from Vinh Tan 2 alone has covered 40 hectares of land in a pile 20 meters high, while ash from the Vinh Tan 1 thermal power plant has covered 60 hectares of land, given some 3,500 tons of ash produced by the plant per day, or over 1.1 million tons per year.

Nguyen Thanh Sang, chairman of Vinh Tan Commune, said the ash dumps are a constant source of worry to residents and the local authorities though the commune has set up a team to inspect and supervise these dumps based on the orders of the district government.

The main concern is that Vinh Tan Power Center has failed to present solutions for the treatment and consumption of coal ash, Chairman of Tuy Phong District Huynh Van Dien stated.

Despite being in operation for three years, the Vinh Tan 2 plant has not resolved the issue of disposing of its ash, Dien noted, suggesting the provincial government, ministries and departments address the problem to minimize dust pollution.

Meanwhile, Le Dac Quy, manager of the Vinh Tan 2 ash dump, said that the automated pumping system at the plant’s dump currently prevents the dispersion of the ash. Besides this, Pham Ngoc Cam Thanh, deputy general director of Vinh Tan 1 Power Co., Ltd, explained that the company is ready to acquire 25 more trucks for transporting coal ash from the plant to the dump site, where a filtering system recycles the ash.

Le Van Danh, deputy general director of Power Generation Corporation 3, stated that even though the factory of Mai Xanh Investment Joint Stock Company contracted to produce unbaked construction materials from the ash remains underdeveloped, other partners have asked for cooperation in consuming their coal ash.

In addition, Nguyen Ngoc Hai, chairman of the Binh Thuan Province, claimed that a Quang Ninh-based company had expressed interest in building a coal ash treatment plant in Vinh Tan Commune.

Noting the lackluster performance of the Mai Xanh factory, Hai said the provincial government on October 2 had convened a meeting to discuss the problem, but a representative from Mai Xanh had failed to attend the meeting. The government will now take back and transfer the project to another potential investor if Mai Xanh’s factory trails behind its project schedule, Hai stressed.

Speaking at a meeting with Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) on October 3, Huynh Thanh Canh, deputy secretary of the provincial Party Committee, proposed EVN promptly comply with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Government’s instructions to complete projects that treat coal ash produced by thermal power plants.

In late September, an inspection team from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment conducted an on-site inspection of Vinh Tan Power Center searching for shortcomings.