Sat, Jun 02, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Water was fouled by discharges

CARCINOGENIC DIOXINS Prosecutors are seeking a three-and-a-half-year prison term for a man they hold responsible for the pollution of drinking water

By Yu Jui-jen, Luo Cheng-ming and Cheng Shu-ting  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Prosecutors on Thursday indicted a sanitation worker employed by the local government in Bade City (八德市), Taoyuan County, over unauthorized, carcinogenic waste water discharges which found their way into Taipei and Taoyuan County residents' drinking water.

Chiang Cheng-wu (江正務) was indicted for forgery and violating the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法) and the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法). Prosecutors are seeking a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

The Taoyuan District Prosecutors' Office said that waste water containing carcinogens made its way from a Taoyuan County landfill into the drinking water of more than 2 million Taipei and Taoyuan County residents for nearly two years, from 2003 to August 2005.

Water containing dioxins from a fly-ash dump in Bade City was released into a nearby stream feeding the county's Basin Water Treatment Plant, which in turn supplies the county and Taipei County with what should be potable water, the office said.

"Fly-ash" refers to particulates produced by the combustion of fuel. Dioxins are any of several toxic hydrocarbons in petroleum-derived herbicides, disinfectants and other products, and are known to cause cancer and birth defects.

While the Basin Water Treatment Plant supplies water to 700,000 households in Taipei County and 750,000 households in Taoyuan County, or 2 million residents in total, the amount of dioxins in the 1 million or so tonnes of water the plant draws daily from Yuanshan Weir (鳶山堰), Taoyuan County, is minimal, the plant's director Chao Ching-po (趙鏡波) said.

Chao added that the waste water from the landfill had stopped flowing into the plant since the completion of the Formosa Freeway. He did not elaborate.

The plant checks the water regularly, and hadn't discovered dangerous levels of dioxins, he said.

Documents filed by prosecutors, however, claim that dioxins did enter the water supply, but that the toxic water had been sufficiently diluted to pose little health risk.

Prosecutors launched an investigation into the landfill's operations in August 2005 after a photograph surfaced of green, toxic water oozing from its pipes into a nearby stream. Chiang appears in the photograph.

Tests of the water came back positive for dangerous levels of dioxins and prosecutors discovered that the landfill had no water records prior to the beginning of their investigation.

Chao on Thursday cited dilution and the distance between the weir and the point of discharge in support of the plant's finding that the level of dioxins had been negligible.

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