THANH HOA - For nearly a half of century, households in Nong Cong district's Cong Binh commune in the central province of Thanh Hoa have had to use water contaminated with petroleum.
All residents here are in need of clean water, Nguyen Van Hanh, a resident in Yen Ninh hamlet told Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper.
Hanh said his family had earlier dug five wells, hoping to find clean water, but all were contaminated with petroleum. The family, however, had no choice but to use the water, despite its strong petroleum odour.
"In summer, people from outside come here and can not breathe due to the heavy smell of petrol," Hanh said.
Today, all inhabited land and ponds are unusable for farming due to the pollution. Petrol floats on the surface of ponds and fields.
Residents use water tanks to catch rainwater for daily use during the rainy season, although in the dry season many households have to travel outside the area to ask for clean water.
Nguyen Thanh Tinh, another resident, said, "All water resources here are seriously polluted and prevent me from improving my family's life. I tried to raise fish, but they didn't grow and all died."
Earlier, the hamlet was home to more than one hundred households, but now only 46 households are occupied, since many residents moved to other places due to the pollution.
History revealed that a petroleum storage station was built in Yen Ninh hamlet during the American War. The tanks were broken by heavy bombardments during the war and large amounts of petrol leaked underground.
This petroleum then gradually contaminated the underground water.
Besides farming problems, many residents worry about their health after reports of a number of cancer cases in the area.
According to head of the hamlet Nguyen Van Quy, at least seven people have died of cancer.
"Besides seven deaths from cancer, many people also suffer from this disease and large numbers of people complain of sore throats," Quy added.
"We can not confirm that these diseases started from petrol, but the danger is very high because the petroleum stored here contained high levels of lead and pose a danger to residents," Quy said.
Tran Van Hiep, chairman of the People's Committee of Cong Binh commune, said local authorities had reported the situation many times to district and provincial authorities.
Also, many inspection teams had visited the hamlet to study the problem and took away water samples for testing. But still, residents remained thirsty for clean water.
After listening to many complaints from local residents, the district plans to propose that provincial authorities build one 10cu.m tank to store rainwater for cooking, though residents will still have to find other water sources for daily use, according to Chairman of the district's People's Committee Tran Van Thuan.
Meanwhile, the Department for Resources and Environment also has plans to remove all polluted lands and use chemicals to treat contaminated water sources.
However, the cost for this work is very high, estimated at some VND90 billion (S$5.66 million).
So local authorities and residents have temporarily agreed with the first plan, to seek out other measures to provide safe water.
According to Thuan, the district has also asked inspection teams to check pollution levels in Yen Ninh, in particular, and the risk involved to other regions in the district, and then propose measures to deal with the problem.