The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday said it suspected that container cleaning factories might be the culprits behind four poisonous gas leaks that occurred in the past month in the Tafa Industrial Park in Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Township (大寮).
The gas leaks affected school children and teachers in nearby Chaoliao elementary and middle schools. Dozens fell ill, suffering from nausea, dizziness and chest pain, and were sent to hospital for emergency treatment.
EPA Minister Steven Shen (沈世宏) told a press conference in Taipei yesterday that following an analysis of the gas collected from the school, results suggested the gas contained elements used in pesticide products.
Another analysis comparing gas samples from the middle school and from five nearby factories found no matches, Shen said, however, two of the five factories were found to have emissions in excess of the standard stipulated in the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法), and they would be fined according to the law.
Nevertheless, Shen said that during the investigation, the EPA found that two other factories may be responsible for the leaks.
One was an empty container cleaning factory located some 400m from the middle school, and another agricultural container cleaning factory located some 1200m from the school, Shen said. Both were suspected of dumping waste liquid from containers containing hexachloro-1, 3-butadiene that subsequently resulted in high-density emissions, he said.
The EPA is now closely monitoring the two factories, he added.
Saying that there are several factories surrounding the school, Shen said it was hard to guarantee 100 percent that none of the factories would emit gases harmful to health during their operations.
Shen suggested that the school relocate, or if not, that the students take their classes elsewhere.
Unsatisfied with the EPA’s response, Taliao Township Mayor Huang Tien-huang (黃天煌) said the people in his township want the EPA to immediately ask the factories to be temporarily shut down.
Huang also demanded that the EPA minister negotiate the terms of compensation with the people in the township in person.