Thu, Nov 11, 2004 - Page 2 News List

EPA to establish network to ensure groundwater safety

POLLUTION To maintain groundwater quality, the environmental agency plans to add 180 `alarm' wells around vulnerable sites in northern Taiwan


To monitor environmental pollution, an alarm system of 180 wells will be built around the island over the following three years to monitor groundwater quality, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

EPA officials said yesterday there are currently 431 standard monitoring wells, through which the quality of groundwater is regularly examined. Every three months, data pertaining to heavy metals, pH levels, temperature, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen and other gases, in groundwater is recorded.

However, for certain sites vulnerable to pollution, such as industrial complexes and electroplate factories, more monitoring wells will be set up to determine potential risks.

Lee Chin-fu (李金福), an official of the EPA's Chief Inspectorate, told the Taipei Times yesterday that the agency would designate 180 potential sites in northern Taiwan for 60 wells, as difficulties in acquiring land could not be ruled out.

"The depth of such wells will be between 10m and 20m to get more detail about aquifers at different levels," Lee said.

Lee said that 60 wells near potential polluters in northern Taiwan would be completed. Similar tasks will be carried out in the central and southern parts of Taiwan in 2006 and 2007.

Completing the network of 180 monitoring wells by the end of 2007 will cost at least NT$60 million, Lee said.

EPA officials said the alarm network would detect the distribution of possible pollutants and contaminants in groundwater and the information would be crucial for pollution prevention and control measures.

The earlier groundwater pollution is found, the easier it will be to treat it, officials said, ensuring that drinking-water sources for people living nearby, as well as their health, can be maintained.

The industrialization and urbanization of Taiwan since the early 1970s, with little regard for its environmental consequences, has led to groundwater pollution. Notorious cases of pollution include a site in Taoyuan, which was used by the American company RCA from the late 1960s to 1992. During that period, untreated waste chemical solvents were discharged into a secret well.

The site was sold to a Taiwanese company in 1992 and the EPA did not investigate it until 1994, when the pollution was exposed. In 1998, the EPA designated the area where the plant was located as a permanently polluted zone.

In 2002, the agency confirmed that the concentrations of volatile organic compounds at 20 wells used to monitor the site's groundwater quality exceeded national standards. The pollution has been associated with more than 500 deaths and thousands of cancer cases among RCA's workers.

In the last few decades, the use of monitoring wells to maintain groundwater quality has become common in Taiwan. Some have been built by local environmental agencies, with the financial support of the EPA, after cases of severe pollution involving factories were exposed.

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