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Thu, Jan 04, 2001 - Page 2 News List

EPA to take media advice

ENVIRONMENT Reporters covering environmental issues released a top 10 list of the most important stories from last year. The Kaoping River incident topped the list

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The top 10 environmental stories of last year, as voted by reporters covering environmental issues, will become important references for the implementation of environmental policy this year, Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) officials said yesterday.

The top 10 stories were announced yesterday at a press conference jointly arranged by the Association of Environmental Reporters (環保記者聯誼會) and the EPA.

The Kaoping River pollution case, in which a waste handling firm was caught red-handed dumping toxic chemical solvents into the southern Taiwan river on July 14, was ranked as the most important environmental story last year.

The case triggered an in-depth investigation carried out by prosecutors and resulted in the indictments of 22 people a month later. Twelve have been charged with attempted homicide and prosecutors have requested that five be given life sentences. Two firms involved also received corporate indictments. The prosecutor requested that the source of the toxic solvents, Eternal Chemical Company (長興化工), be fined NT$260 million. In addition, prosecutors requested that Shengli waste handler (昇利公司), which hired workers to discharge the toxic solvents into the river, be fined NT$160 million.

EPA deputy administrator James Lee (李界木) said yesterday that results of the survey reflected several important issues which the administration would address further.

"In the past, the EPA focused more on the management of household waste than on that of industrial waste. Now we have the determination to manage industrial waste more effectively this year by working with other related government agencies, such as the Industrial Development Bureau under the Ministry of Economic Affairs," Lee said.

Taipei City's new pay-per-bag waste collection scheme, which began last July, revealed a number of problems inherent in the municipality's waste recycling policy, and came second in the top 10 list.

"The media can monitor the government's performance. The survey reflects the fact that Taipei City still has lots to do on the waste recycling issue," DPP legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨) said at the press conference.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung's (張俊雄) decision to scrap the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant last October was applauded by environmental reporters and was listed as the third most important environmental news story.

Liu Te-chan (劉得倉), head of the environmental reporters association, told the Taipei Times that about 30 reporters who regularly cover environmental and ecological stories were surveyed.

Environmental officials said important issues such as local opposition to incinerators and landfills did not figure on the list of top 10 stories, but said that the EPA considered these issues extremely important.

"Taking the opposition to the Meinung Waste Incinerator (美濃焚化爐) as an example, we realized that there are problems with small-scale waste incinerators, such as the negative effect on health and crops," Lee said.

Controversy over the incinerator in Kaohsiung County was sparked early last year after Meinung residents heard rumors that the facility was operating illegally. An operator at the plant revealed that the incinerator sometimes burned waste at a temperature lower than the minimum deemed safe to do so.

Scientists have found that unregulated combustion creates hazardous pollutants, among them dioxin.

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