Tue, Oct 05, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Formosa Plastics chief apologizes for fire

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA

Buildings at the Nan Ya Plastics Corp plant in Chiayi County are covered in burnt detritus yesterday after a fire on Sunday.

Photo: Tsai Tsung-hsun, Taipei Times

Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) chairman William Wong (王文淵) yesterday apologized for a fire at a plant run by group affiliate Nan Ya Plastics Corp (南亞塑膠) in Chiayi County on Sunday.

The head of the nation’s largest private-sector enterprise addressed the apology to all Chiayi residents during a meeting at the office of Chiayi County Commissioner Chang Hwa-kuan (張花冠).

Nan Ya Plastics has launched overall safety checks and will take full responsibility, Wong said.

He told reporters that pending the results of an investigation, he had no idea what caused the fire.

The blaze broke out at about 8:30am on Sunday at Nan Ya’s -Chiayi Second Plant in Taibao City (太保). The factory produced a high-quality waterproof synthetic paper known as white pearl, or PEPA.

It took firefighters nearly 17 hours to extinguish the blaze. No casualties were reported.

The fire dealt another blow to the group after two fires in July at the group’s petrochemical complex in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County.

The Chiayi County Government yesterday put together a panel of experts to evaluate damage caused by the latest fire and handle residents’ complaints.

At a news conference before meeting Wong, Chang said the fire was a “serious industrial safety incident” that caused severe air pollution in the county, which is one of the major agricultural areas in the nation.

Anyone who suffered a loss because of the pollution would have an opportunity to present evidence and if a loss could be proven, the panel would help people claim compensation from Nan Ya, Chang said.

Experts were also asked to determine whether the fire affected the quality of water, air or soil in the county, she said.

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said it had collected samples of black-colored rain believed to have been caused by the fire, adding that the report of its analysis was scheduled to come out within a week.

Hsieh Yein-rui (謝燕儒), director of the EPA’s Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Department, said it suspected the rain was polluted by carbon residue caused by incomplete combustion. Aside from determining the cause of the black-colored rain by analyzing the chromaticity and particulates in the polluted rain, Hsieh said technicians at the agency would also look for heavy metals.

Hsieh said Nanya was fined NT$1 million (US$31,950), as the fire produced an unbearable stench in nearby areas.

“The standard value of odor stated as prescribed by law is 50, but the odor detected on location was 229, four times the standard value,” Hsieh said. “Because of the stench, Nanya was fined NT$1 million.”

Hsieh said Chiayi County’s Environmental Protection Bureau monitored air quality near the Nanya plant and found that it contained particulates of 85 micrograms per cubic meter of air after the fire erupted, which was higher than that detected on -regular days.

However, the amount did not exceed the standard value stated in regulations, he said.

The bureau also monitored the air quality in Singang (新港), Chiayi City and Puzih (朴子) on Sunday morning, finding that the density of sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide in Singang surged from four parts per billion (ppb) to 16ppb. Hsieh said the phenomenon lasted about an hour and the density of the two substances had both now dropped to regular levels.

Hsieh said the bureau would continue monitoring air quality in Chiayi, adding that Nanya may be punished further if it is determined that the company did not follow the terms stated in the pollution source operating permit.

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