Environmental Protection Administration Minster Steven Shen (沈世宏) yesterday came under fire at the Legislative Yuan when he made a series of comments — which legislators criticized as “acting smart” — about four poisonous gas leaks in Kaohsiung County’s Ta-fa Industrial Park in Taliao Township (大寮) last month.
During the legislative session yesterday, Shen said that in the past, people were used to the odor and chose not to do anything about it.
However, “Chaoliao Middle School got a new principal, who is very sensitive to odors, and she took this seriously,” he said.
Some people can detect odors from the factories that are diluted to one part in 10,000, while others may not smell the gas even if it is only diluted to one part in 100, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) asked: “Are you saying that the incident would not have occurred had the old school principal stayed?”
“Shen is not doing his job and now he is trying to act smart,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Twu Shiing-jer (?? said.
Asked how Shen thought he had fared in dealing with the Ta-fa case and if he were satisfied with himself, Shen said: “Yes … [The EPA] helped with all we could help with.”
Shen said that to prevent incidents like this, the government should offer high cash rewards for factory workers who report malpractice by their employers, adding that some people have suggested an amount of between NT$5 million and NT$10 million (US$151,000 and US$302,000).
He also said the Kaohsiung County Government should shoulder the responsibility for the case, and that if he promised there would never be another gas leak, then he would only be “striking his own fancy [自己講爽的].”
In response, Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興) said at a separate setting yesterday that Shen should “speak less and start taking responsibility,” while Chaoliao (潮寮) Village Chief Wu Chi-hui (吳致慧) said his people “treated Shen’s comments like farts.”
“[Shen] should not kick the issue like a ball from the central to the local government, and make [Kaohsiung County] the stakeholder instead of a mediator,” Yang said.
Wu, who has lived in Chaoliao for all 47 years of his life, said that in the past the county had neglected the people’s numerous complaints about the odorous gas leaks from the industrial park. However, “last month was the first time the gases led to hospitalization.”
Wu said that at the meeting on Dec. 28, both Shen and Yang had promised that the government would shoulder full responsibility, but were now bouncing the responsibility back and forth between them.
Wu said he planned to attend the mediation session between the local people, the EPA, the county and the Industrial Development Bureau.
“If we do not reach consensus during the meeting, we will certainly arrange a protest in front of the Presidential Office next week,” he said.
Wu said that among the 11 requests to the governments, the local residents mainly hoped the industrial park would install pollution prevention equipment, as well as pay each resident NT$100,000 for their 30 years of suffering. If agreed upon, the total compensation would reach NT$800 million.
Later yesterday Shen said that by asking the county to take responsibility, he meant that according to law the mediation work should be done by the county.