The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on Sunday promised residents living near the Tafa Industrial Park (大發工業區) in Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Township (大寮) that it would identify within 10 days the culprit behind three leaks of poisonous gas in the past month.
The EPA’s promise came after three incidents on Dec. 1, Dec. 12 and Christmas Day involving mysterious emissions emanating from the industrial park affected nearby Chao-liao elementary and middle schools.
Dozens of students and teachers were affected and were sent to hospital for emergency treatment for nausea, dizziness and tension in the chest.
Asked why the EPA has not been able to find which factory was to blame for the gas leaks, Chang Shun-ching (張順欽), the EPA’s department of environmental monitoring and information management senior specialist, said that the analysis was complex.
“As the odor came from the wastewater treatment plant in the park, [which treats the wastewater of all the factories in the park], the source of the waste could be emitted from an individual factory’s waste, or it could be the result of the mixing of two [or more] factories’ waste,” Chang said.
However, environmentalist Lee Ken-cheng (李根政), director of Mercy on the Earth and a former member of the EPA’s environmental impact assessment panel, said that the administration was resorting to moral persuasion, asking the factory at fault to turn itself in, which is the “fastest, most idiotic, but also the only method” the EPA can turn to in order to complete the mission within that time.
However, Lee said that to identify the source, two mechanisms needed to have been previously established.
“First, the waste emitted by each factory in the park needs to be fingerprinted and registered, and secondly, there needs to be a comprehensive monitoring system throughout the park to detect any air pollution,” he said.
As the Tafa Industrial Park possessed neither, it would be difficult to find the source without extensive analysis and cross-reference of the pollutant and the factories’ wastes, he said.
The situation is not a solitary case, Lee said, as all older industrial parks in the country lack this monitoring system.
“This just highlights that the EPA and the Industrial Development Bureau are neglecting their duties in a long-term basis,” Lee said.