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Fri, Jan 21, 2000 - Page 2 News List

EPA zeros in on first of many toxic dumps

CLEANUP CAMPAIGN Though the environmental watchdog agency has identified 160 illegal dump sites since June, it is just beginning to take action to clean them up


A controversial illegal dump site in southern Taiwan, which contains hazardous waste and pig carcasses from an epidemic more than two years ago, is to be cleaned up by the end of May, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) officials said yesterday.

Although the EPA announced that more than 160 illegal sites around Taiwan have been discovered since last June, it had not set any specific deadlines for cleaning up any of the sites until yesterday.

During the inspection of an illegal dump site at Hsinyuan township (新園鄉), Pingtung County, EPA officials said 60,000 tons of mixed waste and stored waste water, accumulated during last year's rainy season, would be properly treated by the end of May.

The discovery of the seven-hectare illegal dump site last February, at which 7,000 tons of mixed waste was found, caused panic among local residents.

However, after the initial discovery, the EPA did not set a deadline for the waste's removal, instead asking the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRT, 工業技術研究院) to first take samples in an effort to properly classify the contents.

After its investigation, ITRT officials confirmed the site was contaminated with industrial waste, such as mercury-tainted sludge and the carcasses of pigs slaughtered during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 1997.

"By digging seven meters down to the clay layer, we discovered that part of the dump site had been polluted by heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead and mercury," said Chang Yee-tsan (張以燦), business manager from Union Chemical Laboratories at the ITRT.

Chang said his team had collected 4,800 tons of mercury-tainted industrial sludge, as well as other hazardous waste materials containing heavy metals.

Chang said that all waste would be dug out, classified and stored temporarily at the site by the end of May. In addition, Chang said that treating accumulated waste water was no longer a problem because three sets of water treatment facilities had been established.

When flooded after more than a week of rainfall last August, the site was turned into what environmentalists described as a "toxic pond" with an unbearable stench.

But local EPA officials discharged part of the accumulated water with pumps, stressing the water being drained from the site was non-hazardous and the polluted water would be stored temporarily.

ITRT officials said yesterday the polluted water would be treated within one month.

However, officials from Hsin-yuan Township Office asked the EPA yesterday to remove all the waste as soon as possible.

"We residents are extremely worried about the environmental pollution caused by the site. It is not acceptable that the waste, even if packaged properly, should remain there," said Chou Hung-sheng (周宏勝), chief of the Hsin-yuan Township Office.

EPA officials were unable to give Chou a clear answer because sites for permanent storage of hazardous industrial waste have yet to be decided upon.

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