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Water supplier says Chinese pipes safe amidst health concern

Saigon Water Corporation (Sawaco), a major water supplier in Ho Chi Minh City, has reassured citizens that its ductile iron water pipes provided by Chinese firms pose no threat to public health.

The announcement came at the request of the municipal administration, which had earlier received a letter from a man who claimed to be Truong Van Hai, a former Sawaco official.

In his letter sent to multiple agencies in Ho Chi Minh City, Hai suggested that Chinese-made water pipes used by Sawaco were made from ductile cast iron that had been recycled from waste products, unexploded ordnance and expired weapons that could affect the water quality.

Chinese pipes in the majority

According to Sawaco, its water pipes were manufactured by a number of foreign suppliers from different countries such as France, Malaysia, India and China.

Out of over 470,000 meters of water pipes installed by the corporation since 2000, Chinese tubes account for 249,000 meters, or 53 percent of the total length.

Ho Van Lam, CEO of Sawaco, said the corporation’s selection of suppliers for water pipes strictly followed established procedures and regulations, which included a bidding process to choose the best manufacturer in terms of quality and price.

As pipes by Chinese manufacturers are usually between ten and 30 percent cheaper than those of the same kind from more developed nations, it is common for Chinese firms to win the bid, according to an official from Sawaco’s management of water supply projects.

According to Lam, all imported pipes must also go through a random quality test by the Quality Assurance and Testing Center 3 before they can be installed.

Independent tests needed

A senior official at the Preventive Medicine Center of Ho Chi Minh City, which is in charge of monitoring the quality of the city’s tap water, admitted that the level of residual chlorine and turbidity found in the water can vary from time to time since the installation of Chinese ductile iron pipes.

“But no heavy metals have been detected in the water,” the official said. “We will notify city leaders immediately if there is any sign of the metals.”

“There should be no concern over the water quality if the pipes are of satisfactory standards,” said Nguyen Van Tam, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport.

Saigon Water, another water supplier in Ho Chi Minh City, used ductile iron pipes made by Chinese company Xinxing to install its water supply system in the rural district of Cu Chi.

According to Truong Khac Hoanh, CEO of Saigon Water, the water quality in Cu Chi has so far met all safety standards.

Nguyen Ly Trong, a senior engineer at the Ho Chi Minh City Association of Engineering Science, attributed recent skepticism over the quality of Chinese pipes to the fact that there have been multiple incidents concerning deteriorating pipes.

“In my opinion, there should be an independent unit responsible for quality testing and inspecting over these pipes,” Trong said. “If they are of desirable quality, it would be reassuring news to the public. Otherwise, they should be removed from the city’s water supply system.”

Regarding Hai’s letter, Lam said he had run a check on the list of Sawaco’s former employees and found nobody by that name.

“This could have been an anonymous sender impersonating someone else,” Lam explained. “Nevertheless, it is our duty to provide explanations as requested by city authorities.”

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