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Fri, May 19, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Kaohsiung official says FPG wrong

TOXIC WASTE The County Commissioner denied the statement by FPG that the local government had requested compensation, saying that it had acted only as a mediator in past environmental disputes with FPG

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kaohsiung County officials refuted accusations made on Wednesday by the head of the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑) that they had demanded compensation from FPG over a controversial shipment of mercury-tainted waste.

"The Kaohsiung County Government has never asked for a cent from the Formosa Plastics Group," Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yu Cheng-Hsien (余政憲) said yesterday.

Yu was responding to statements made two days ago by FPG chairman Wang Yung-ching (王永慶) at an annual meeting of FPG shareholders, when he said he felt saddened by what he described as the terrible "local habit" of asking for compensation, and for 20 minutes lamented the "disgusting political and business environment in Taiwan."

"I felt awful when I heard what [Wang] said. When dealing with previous environmental disputes involving FPG, the local government played the role of mediator only," Yu said.

Claiming innocence on behalf of the local government, Yu displayed official documents regarding cases of air pollution brought against the company in the past.

Yu said the documents showed that officials did not assist residents living near an FPG plant in asking for compensation for agricultural crops that were damaged by toxic gases emitted by the FPG plant.

"As for the mercury-tainted waste issue, we only asked Formosa Plastics Group to hold public hearings and provide answers to residents' questions. I think the request was absolutely reasonable," Yu said.

Yu said that people wondered why the amount of waste -- originally labelled as being 2,700 tonnes of construction waste -- had been transformed into 4,600 tonnes of toxic waste when it was returned from Cambodia after being discovered there late in 1998.

Yu admitted that although the continuing dispute over the waste concerned compensation -- NT$30 million in total, requested by Jenwu (仁武) township residents -- FPG has guaranteed only NT$7 million.

The 4,600 tonnes of mercury-tainted waste, now packed in 357 cargo containers, have been stored temporarily at Kaohsiung Harbor since April of last year since being returned from Cambodia.

Thirty-two cargo containers containing instruments and protection suits used to collect the waste in Cambodia -- were shipped to the Netherlands last December, but 4,400 tonnes is still sitting at the port.

After several other attempts to ship the waste to other countries for proper treatment failed, FPG decided to re-import the waste in mid-June and plans to treat it at its facilities in Jenwu, Kaohsiung County.

But those plans have provoked strong opposition locally.

Wang refused to comment yesterday about Yu's denials over compensation.

Officials at Kaohsiung Harbor said yesterday that they did not know exactly when the waste would be removed.

The reason, they said, was because no documents granting FPG permission to import its waste have been received from the Environmental Protection Administration and the local government.

However, port authorities told the Taipei Times yesterday that worries over possible environmental pollution caused by toxic mercury leakage are unfounded, because the mercury-tainted sludge was packed within more than three layers of protective covering.

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