Taipei residents will have to think twice before taking a dip in the Tamsui River for the next few days, after lightning struck a sewage pumping station, causing it to flood sections of the river with high levels of bacteria, Taipei City Government officials said yesterday.
Three Taipei councilors visited Wuku township, Taipei County, yesterday morning to inspect the Shizitou Pumping Station, which malfunctioned after being struck by lightning on Friday.
Officials of the city's Bureau of Public Works showed city councilors a video recording of Friday's incident. The video showed the underground station being flooded with river within 10 seconds, which further damaged six water pumps inside.
The pumping station was designed to transfer about 1.2 million metric tonnes of household sewage daily to a sewage treatment plant in Pali, Taipei County. Treated waste water is discharged into the Taiwan Strait.
Councilors expressed concern about the pollution, as more than 3 million tonnes of sewage has been discharged into the river in the last three days.
"I just want to know how the government wants residents to deal with the potential pollution," People First Party Councilor Huang Shan-shan (黃珊珊) said.
Environmental officials said that bacillus levels varied in the section between Taipei Bridge and Chungyang Bridge. However, officials suggested that residents avoid recreational activities, such as swimming and fishing, in the river.
City councilors said that the station has been plagued by frequent malfunctions.
At a meeting called by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
"A preliminary examination shows that the lightning damaged the control panel. However, we don't rule out the possibility of human error," bureau director William Chen (
He said that mobile pumps have been used over the past few days to dry out the building.
A trial run is expected to be carried out at the station some time today.
Environmental Protection Bu-reau Director Chen Yeong-ren (
"Our monitoring of water quality in the river suggests that bacterial levels have risen considerably, but the pH level and the dissolved oxygen level remains normal," Chen said.
According to the city's Bureau of Public Works, the operation of the station should be back to normal on Thursday.
In the meantime, purified water is being pumped into the river.
Officials said that recent afternoon thundershowers have increased the water level in the river, further mitigating the effects of the pollution.
The Environmental Protection Administration and local environmental bureaus have taken samples at different sections of the river and their results are expected to be released to the public in the next few days.