Toxicity testing for heavy metals on crops grown near Changhua County’s Hemei Township (和美) — where water contamination by electroplating companies was recently discovered — showed all 11 tested samples to be safe, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.
Last week, several electroplating companies were found discharging wastewater containing heavy metals into East-West No. 3 Canal (東西三圳) and its connecting gutters that supply irrigation water to nearby farmland, leading to concerns that crops grown in the area may be polluted with heavy metals.
The council’s Agriculture and Food Agency took six rice samples on Thursday last week and five samples of other crops on Friday to test for eight kinds of heavy metals, with the test results yesterday showing all of them to be within safe levels.
The agency said all crops grown in an area of 45.3 hectares had already been destroyed when the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) detected heavy metal contamination earlier this year, while the agency had also destroyed a total of 1,680kg of contaminated rice grown in a 0.47 hectare plot after it carried out inspections in October.
The agency said that through its efforts working with the EPA and local governments on monitoring the levels of heavy metals in crops grown in high-risk areas — including areas with a high density of electroplating companies in Taoyuan County, Hsinchu City, Greater Taichung, Changhua County and Greater Kaohsiung — it has inspected 568 farms and destroyed crops on 31 this year.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the EPA decided on Monday that in addition to fining the companies for violating the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法), it would also seek compensation of up to NT$176 million (US$ million) for the use in farmland pollution abatement from the electroplating companies.
Tsai Hung-teh (蔡鴻德), executive secretary of the EPA’s soil and groundwater remediation fund management board, said after collecting sufficient evidence the board would list the companies as polluters and ask them to pay for soil remediation — estimated at NT$4 million a hectare for approximately 44 hectares of farmland.