Thu, Feb 08, 2001 - Page 1 News List

EPA attacked over handling of oil spill

CATASTROPHE Kenting residents mobbed the head of the Environmental Protection Administration demanding to know why the government was not doing more to tackle the slick that is slowly enveloping the coastline


Volunteers help clean up the coastline around Kenting, severely polluted when a Greek ship ran aground in bad weather some three weeks ago. Residents have slammed the government for not doing enough to assist in dealing with the disaster.


The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has come under fire for its handling of the recent oil spill off southern Taiwan, generating criticism from local residents, the Executive Yuan and even opposition parties.

Twenty-five days after the oil spill occurred, EPA administrator Lin Jun-yi (林俊義) carried out his first field investigation yesterday at the Lungkeng Ecological Preservation Area (龍坑生態保護區), where workers are still collecting oil from polluted coastal reefs.

Lin was met by hundreds of angry local residents waving banners calling for him to step down from his post. Other residents shouted at him, "how dare you come here."

The origin of the spill was a Greek cargo ship, the M.V. Amorgos, which ran aground on a reef near the Kenting National Park on Jan. 14 after a mechanical malfunction in bad weather. EPA officials estimate that at least 1,100 tonnes of oil has leaked from the ship so far.

Lin was prevented from leaving the scene by residents angry with the EPA's slow reaction to the oil spill. Yeh Ming-shun (葉明順), a Pingtung County councilor, said that the oil spill case was just another case of the central government paying more attention to the north of the country at the expense of the south.

Lin told the public that the EPA was making an effort to deal with the disaster, but he asked for residents' patience and understanding as the oil spill was a national disaster.

"We have called for international aide. I believe that all the oil can be cleaned up within one month," Lin said.

The EPA's slow reaction to the accident has also drawn criticism from Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄).

Chang ordered the EPA to review steps taken to deal with the crisis and asked the Ministry of National Defense for assistance.

Local residents and workers at the site say they can currently only collect 75 tonnes of oil a day.

Chang said that the Cabinet would soon establish a permanent task force to deal with marine pollution incidents.

The Control Yuan yesterday established a task force to investigate the disaster and officials who may have neglected their duty.

Five Control Yuan members will carry out a field investigation in Kenting next week.

KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), who went to Kenting last Thursday, said the pollution was spreading beyond the 20 hectares currently affected and that at least 5km of coastline was now seriously affected by the spill.

Tseng estimated that the oil spill would cause at least NT$6 billion in financial losses to the fishing and tourism industries.

KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) also criticized the lack of cooperation between governmental agencies.

"The oil spill is an environmental Pachang Creek (八掌溪) tragedy," Lien said during a meeting of the KMT's Central Standing Committee yesterday.

Marine experts warned that if the 60,000 tonnes of iron ore and the 200 tonnes of oil that still remain on board the ship sink into the sea, the effect on the environment will be even worse. Hualien Harbor Bureau officials, under whose jurisdiction the slick falls, said that the insurance company responsible for the ship would soon decide whether or not to scuttle the wreck.

"All we can do is urge the insurance company to deal with the case efficiently," Chao Fu-shin (趙福鑫), the bureau's deputy director, said yesterday.

Officials at the Third Nuclear Power Plant (核三) in Kenting are monitoring the polluted area to prevent affected water being drawn into the plant's cooling system. The plant, located in Nanwan (南灣), is about 10km from the origin of the oil spill.

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