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Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 2 News List

EPA issues deadline for hazardous waste cleanup

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION The administration said that NT$740 million will be spent to clean up the most hazardous industrial waste dumps by the end of next year


Environmental Protection Admin-istration (EPA) officials said yesterday that the most dangerous illegal dumps of industrial waste would be completely cleaned up next year.

"An NT$740 million budget has been allocated for the cleanup jobs, which are expected to be finished next year," Chang Hoang-jang (張晃彰), head of the EPA's central Taiwan division, said at a press conference yesterday.

Since 1998, the EPA has dis-covered 170 illegal waste dumps in Taiwan. The EPA has since carried out field investigations to separate these dumps into four categories, ranked by the degree of danger.

By the end of last year, the EPA had listed 14 of the 170 dumps as Category A -- meaning they are a danger to people nearby.

The EPA and local governments have worked to clean up five sites, including a site covering 140m2 of land in Hsinfeng township (新豐鄉), Hsinchu County, where 10-year-old mercury-tainted waste was discovered. The cleanup jobs are followed by soil and groundwater tests.

Meanwhile, nine of the 14 most dangerous sites, all in southern Taiwan, have yet to be touched. The most controversial site is in Hsinyuan township (新園鄉), Ping-tung County, where 7,600 tonnes of mercury-tainted waste and 38,000 tonnes of heavy metals waste were discovered.

Chang said that the heavy metals waste could be fully removed by the end of next year if the bid is voted on by the end of this month.

"However, we still have no final solution on the treatment of such mercury-tainted waste," Chang said.

Chang said that the high concentration of mercury in the waste made it impossible to be easily treated after packing it in cement for stabilization. The waste has been put in barrels but is still sitting at the site because no final disposal site is available.

Chang said a possible solution is to use a recovery method that uses heat as a catalyst, used by Formosa Plastics Corporation at one of its factories in Jenwu Township, Kaoshiung County, to treat its mercury-tainted waste.

"We might purchase new equipment overseas and use the method at the site. Or, if Formosa Plastics Corporation would like to work with us, we will ship the waste to Jenwu and share its facilities for further treatment," Chang said.

Chang said that Formosa Plastics Corporation was reluctant to take over the job, wanting to avoid being wrongfully identified by the public as the original cause of the illegal dump.

Formosa Plastics Corporation was involved in a controversy pertaining to the illegal dumping of hazardous industrial waste in 1998, when it shipped 2,700 tonnes of mercury-tainted waste to Cambodia. Cambodia succumbed to international pressure and shipped the waste -- along with the soil it had contaminated, totalling 4,600 tonnes -- back to Taiwan in 1999. In the wake of the international scandal, the company installed the new recovery system last year to treat its mercury-tainted waste.

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