Fri, Mar 18, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Central Taiwan may be marked air pollution control zone

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Yunlin is shrouded in haze as high levels of PM 2.5 pollution were registered on Oct. 30 last year.

Photo: CNA

Central Taiwan might be designated a top-grade air pollution control zone, while a Taichung City bylaw aiming to limit coal burning to curb air pollution might be approved by the central government next week, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said.

At a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday, EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) said that by the end of this year, Taichung, Changhua and Nantou might be designated as class-three air pollution control zones, where pollution is most severe according to the agency’s three-class categorization system.

The area was identified for potential designation as a class-three zone due to high concentrations of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter — Wei said, in response to New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung’s (洪慈庸) questions about an emissions cap in the area to curb pollution.

An area where air quality levels fall below the standard for three consecutive years can be recognized as a class-three air pollution zone, in which stricter standards apply to reduce emissions in the area.

According to an analysis of PM2.5 data collected in the past three years and announced by the EPA earlier this year, the whole nation, excluding Hualien and Taitung, qualify for class-three zone recognition.

Hung also asked whether the EPA would reject a Taichung bylaw to ban petroleum coke and reduce the use of coal in the city by 40 percent in four years, as the agency last year rejected a similar Yunlin bylaw that aimed to ban coal burning.

The EPA said the ban was beyond the county’s jurisdiction.

“The Taichung bylaw and Yunlin bylaw are different in content. The Taichung bylaw is less in conflict with central government laws and is likely to be approved. The EPA will submit an analysis of the Taichung bylaw to the Executive Yuan for review next week,” Wei said.

In related news, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said participants of religious activities are at higher risk of PM2.5 exposure, as PM2.5 levels inside a temple that burns incense and ghost money could be three times higher than the highest level of the EPA’s 10-level PM2.5 index.

As a series of festivals celebrating Matsu are scheduled to begin soon, Liu called on the EPA to dispatch air quality monitoring vehicles to join religious processions and announce real-time pollution data and associated health risks of different religious activities, such as letting off firecrackers and burning incense.

“According to an EPA study, incense emits 75 to 700 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter, which is 10 times higher than the highest level of the EPA’s PM2.5 index. I will personally join the processions and monitor air quality with a handheld device,” Wei said.

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