Tue, Jul 05, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Pollution from blaze at `acceptable levels:' EPA

ACCURATE?The air may cause breathing problems, but the chemicals released from Sunday's Taichung fertilizer plant fire are not cause for concern, EPA officials insist

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH AGENCIES

Although the blaze released chemicals into the air, the fire at a fertilizer plant in Taichung on Sunday did not cause any significant damage to the quality of the air or water in nearby areas, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

The fire injured at least 16 people and caused a great amount of financial losses. Although the fire was extinguished, it spontaneously re-ignited yesterday morning, before being put out again.

The EPA's air quality report yesterday suggested that levels of chemicals in the air remained normal, and public anxiety over the fire would eventually subside. The monitoring data collected yesterday morning showed that levels of methanol, ammonia, and ethylene that were released into the air are all at "acceptable levels."

In addition, EPA officials said that the accidental release of toxic chemicals would not lead to the formation of acid rain. EPA chief Chang Kuo-lung (張國龍) also inspected the site to see if environmental monitoring had been carried out appropriately.

Yesterday, two filtering systems in nearby rivers were established. Seven trucks collected sludge from the rivers and sent them to sewage plants for treatment. EPA officials said that the yellow color in the rivers is normal because decomposition of nitrate released from the factory had been processed in water.

The pH level of river water also remained at "acceptable levels," the EPA said. Since the river water is not source for drinking water, the public should remain calm, officials added. However, agricultural agencies in charge of irrigation management will be closely monitoring the river in the near future.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) yesterday held a meeting on the fire, and later said that the public's concerns over the release of harmful chemicals from the factory into the environment has to be addressed.

"Results from the monitoring of the the environmental impact in the next three days will be immediately available to the public," Hu said.

People who suffer from respiratory illnesses may experience further breathing problems as a result of the air pollution, official said.

On Sunday, fire fighters and reporters close to the scene experienced respiratory problems as a result of the blaze.

Hu noted that there are 25 other chemical factories in the industrial complex where the fire broke out, and the government inspect these facilities to prevent further fires.

The city government also reviewed its capability to deal with chemical leaks and planned to purchase more specially equipped trucks which are designed to handle chemical spills.

The EPA also yesterday held a disaster-prevention drill at the Taichung Science Park to deal with accidents involving toxic chemical spills. More than 200 rescue workers from 25 units, the police, the army and hospitals participated in a drill in the event of a major chemical spill in the future.

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