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Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Soldiers will take over cleanup

SPILL News that the army is to take over the clearing up of the spill has not been welcomed by locals, who say the military is taking job opportunities away from them

By Chiu Yu-tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

An employee from the Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau uses a water hose to clean up oil residue from rocks along the southern Taiwan shoreline. The EPA, which is leading the task force, said that more than 1,000 soldiers will be assigned to remove the oil.

PHOTO: HUNG CHEN-SHENG, TAIPEI TIMES

The Cabinet task force established to deal with an oil spill cleanup in southern Taiwan said yesterday that soldiers will take over all on-shore work today.

But the task force added that some of the work opportunities would be preserved for local residents.

Lin Jun-yi (林俊義), head of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), who is leading the task force, said yesterday that more than 1,000 soldiers would work to remove oil from deep gullies in the next two weeks. After that, Lin said, the soldiers would focus their efforts on contaminated reefs.

Chief of the General Staff Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) inspected 28 sites in Shihmentzu (石門仔) and Kengtzunei (坑仔內) yesterday, where about 700 soldiers are assisting with the on-shore cleanup work.

Lin told Tang that the army's involvement would not cause any local opposition.

"We still have lots of work for local residents in addition to cleaning up the oil, such as transporting goods or paving access roads," Lin said.

Local workers who have secured temporary work removing the oil, however, expressed their opposition to having soldiers dominate the oil cleanup work.

"At least we residents should be the majority," a female worker said.

Every worker is paid NT$1,500 a day by the ship's agent for the oil collection work. The part-time jobs have attracted fishermen and unemployed residents.

The oil spill occurred when the Greek ship, the M.V. Amorgos, ran aground on submerged reefs on Jan. 14 after a mechanical failure which left it out of control for 19 hours.

The oil began to leak on Jan. 18. Earlier this month, the EPA estimated that at least 1,150 tonnes of oil had spilled into the sea and polluted coastal reefs in the Lungkeng Ecological Preservation Area (龍坑生態保護區) in Kenting National Park.

In Lungkeng yesterday, facilities for high pressure sprays were set up by the Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau (高雄港務局). Workers sprayed seawater on reefs and then used oil absorbent cotton to dry them.

EPA officials said that environmental experts had carried out a preliminary analysis of the impact caused by the oil spill over a three-day period.

Cheng Shean-rong (鄭顯榮), director-general of the administration's Bureau of Water Quality Protection. (水保處), said that polluted waters would not flow as far as Nanwan (南灣), where the Third Nuclear Power Plant is located.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday started to discuss with the Ministry of National Defense, the Coast Guard Administration and the ship's agent in Taiwan the best way to deal with the wreck, which is only 800m from Lungkeng. The ship's owner has already given up ownership of the vessel, transportation officials said yesterday.

The EPA asked Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) to set up booms around the half-sunk ship yesterday in case of further oil spills. Two hundred tons of oil and 60,000 tons of iron ore remain on the ship.

Meanwhile, the government's slow response to the oil spill is continuing to have political repercussions. KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) inspected the polluted area near Lungkeng yesterday, complaining that the DPP-led central government wasted precious time in dealing with the slick.

A team composed of five Control Yuan members will inspect the damaged area today and tomorrow. Interviews with officials involved might be carried out there if necessary.

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