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Sat, Feb 10, 2001 - Page 2 News List

EPA to ask military for help with clearing spill

OIL SLICK The Environmental Protection Administration said it will ask the armed forces to assist in dealing with the disaster that has struck Taiwan's southern coast

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTERIN PINGTUNG COUNTY

The Cabinet's task force set up to deal with an oil spill in southern Taiwan said yesterday it planned to solve the problem of what to do with the half-sunk ship -- the cause of the disaster -- within one month.

Dealing with the wreck, which has 200 tonnes of oil and 60,000 tonnes of iron ore remaining on board, has now become the focus of the cleanup operation.

The third meeting of the task force was convened by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday at the National Museum of Marine Biological Aquarium in Checheng (車城), Pingtung County, yesterday.

EPA administrator Lin Jun-yi (林俊義) said after the meeting that the Ministry of National Defense would present a proposal about how the military could help deal with the disaster within a month, after they have discussed the issue with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the coast guard.

Lin yesterday also said that no chemical oil dispersants would be used for the cleanup operation on the shore in order to protect the coral reefs within the polluted area.

"We will depend on Mother Nature's ability to wash the oil on the reefs away after we have used micro-organisms to decompose the oil," Lin said, adding that the local ecosystem would recover within a year.

Lin also refuted concerns previously expressed by some marine experts that floating oil might be a potential danger to the Third Nuclear Power Plant (核三廠) in Nanwan (南灣).

He said that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) would place booms to block oil floating near the station from getting into the plant's water intake pipes. Ships would also be deployed to help collect oil from the water.

"We will get things done by March, when the south wind might start to blow floating oil up to Nanwan, where the nuclear plant is located," Lin said.

As for compensation issues, Lin said that the Ministry of Finance was ready to talk to the ship's insurance company.

"Money cannot make up for the environmental damage, but it might be helpful to future recovery work," Lin said.

Lin admitted yesterday that the EPA's early response to the spill might have been slow, but that governmental agencies were now all cooperating successful.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday demanded the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (研考會) investigate the case to see if the administration was negligent in dealing with the slick.

In Lungken, where most of the spill is concentrated, the shore cleanup work was again halted because of bad weather.

Foreign advisors, however, investigated the site yesterday to figure out how the cleanup operation might proceed more smoothly.

The EPA has already been in contact with a UK-based non-profit corporation, Oil Spill Response Limited, to help speed up the shore cleanup. Two advisors from the company are to stay in southern Taiwan for three weeks to deal with cleanup issues.

"Hopefully, we will be able to set up three sites on land to collect oil from reefs simultaneously," Dave Oland, an advisor to UK group, said yesterday.

Oland said that they had asked for assistance from the EPA for more access routes, more manpower and better facilities.

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