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Bottled water firm suspended for sourcing from polluted ditch

Using contaminated wastewater from a residential ditch to process bottled water, a facility in Hai Phong has been shut down.

Authorities in the northern city have shut down a facility producing drinking water in Ky Son Commune of Thuy Nguyen District over food safety violations.

Inspectors from Hai Phong’s Health Department found the Liem Son facility owned by Nguyen Van Hue, a local resident, has operated without a permit and sourced water from a ditch running through the commune to process into bottled water sold on the market under the brand Vinalis.

The facility will be punished for this administrative violation, expected to cost it a fine of VND100 million ($4,300), said Pham Thu Xanh, director of the department.

Liem Son’s derogation was initially detected by local residents.

According to reports, Liem Son advertised its Vinalis bottled water to "come from a source running from mountain formed thousands of years ago. But its water was later found to have been processed from water retrieved from a ditch passing through their community, contaminated by domestic wastewater.

Do Van Khoa, deputy chairman of Ky Son Commune, told the press last week Liem Son has been in the water business since 2008 and that it has been processing water from an irrigation ditch built to initially serve agriculture.

However, in recent years, the canal has become polluted with domestic wastewater.

Yet in this situation, "the commune does not have the authority or function to question Liem Son, inspect its operations, or decide if what it has been doing is right or wrong."

Liem Son covers over 200 square meters along a provincial road, near a residential area.

The facility comprises of a house of around 60 square meters, its door always closed. The irrigation canal containing cloudy water runs in front of and to its right.

This canal stretches two kilometers in total, starting from another commune and running through a paddy field before ending in Ky Son Commune.

Liem Son's owner, Hue, admitted he has run the facility without any permission and drew water from the canal to produce drinking water.

His market is Ky Son and several other nearby communes, where he sold 19-liter bottles at VND10,000 (less than half a dollar) each.

Last week, Phuc Ha Company, also based in Hai Phong, was shut down for the exact same reason after authorities found it had used ditchwater to produce bottled water, branded Vimass.

According to its permit granted in 2008, Phuc Ha is allowed to take underground water from near a mountain in the city to process drinking water yet after this source recently ran out, its owner had switched to taking water from a ditch running nearby.