Legislators attacked the Environ-mental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday, saying soil and groundwater have been seriously polluted by toxic fly ash from incinerators because the agency has for years failed to properly manage incinerator residue.
DPP Legislator Eugene Jao (
Incineration residue can be separated into two parts -- fly ash, most of which is captured from smokestacks by air pollution control systems, and bottom ash, which falls through the grate of an incinerator's combustion chamber into an ash pit.
Both types of ash must be removed for further treatment since they contain toxic heavy metals, such as chromium, cadmium, lead, arsenic, zinc, and others as well as organic compounds, such as PCBs, dioxins, benzene, and other cancer-inducing materials.
Jao said a recent investigation by his office found that the EPA has failed to manage such toxic ash appropriately.
The investigation report says that each year about 20,000 tonnes of fly ash from four incinerators in Taipei County was dumped at a landfill in Shulin township after being mixed with bottom ash.
According to the report, Taipei County is not the only problem area. The report says that the EPA doesn't really know where the fly ash collected from 13 out the 19 incinerators ends up.
"Where has the fly ash gone? Each year incinerators generate 98,185 tonnes of toxic fly ash to pollute the environment," Jao said.
Jao also urged the EPA to release records about the examination of water spilled from landfills, saying the public has a right to know such information.
Jao said the EPA should punish incinerator operators that mismanage fly ash and regulations pertaining to recycling toxic fly ash should be carefully revised to avoid creating more environmental pollution.
Officials of the EPA's Bureau of Incinerator Engineering, however, said yesterday that most incinerators either store fly ash temporarily at factory sites or stabilize it through advanced technologies.
EPA officials say some of the facilities needed to appropriately manage incinerator residue are still under construction.
An aide to Jao, Yang Jiao-yen (楊嬌豔), told the Taipei Times yesterday that problems related to the EPA's burn-oriented waste management have emerged since last year when anti-incinerator activists asked the legislature to freeze the agency's proposed budget for building and maintaining incinerators.
"It's pity that we haven't seen any reflection of the EPA on the policy," Yang said.
Yang said that legislators would work with anti-incinerator activists to host a waste manage-ment summit in March that would highlight problems with the EPA's policies.
In the 1990s the EPA estimated that by the end of this year it would have 36 incinerators in operation, capable of burning 30,400 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day.
Last March the agency canceled four incinerator projects.