About 2,000 residents from Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Township (大寮) protested in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday, accusing the government of incompetence in handling the poisonous gas leak in their hometown and demanding that Environmental Protection Administration Minister Steven Shen (沈世宏) step down.
The protesters, wearing yellow ribbons and waving signs in front of the Presidential Office, also said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should apologize for the government’s incompetence and visit the town to gain a better understanding of their suffering.
There were four toxic gas leaks last month allegedly emitted from Ta-fa Industrial Park in Taliao Township, which affected nearby Chaoliao elementary and middle schools. Dozens of students and teachers were hospitalized and treated for nausea, dizziness and chest pains.
Following an odor analysis the EPA said the source of four toxic gas leaks may never be identified as there could be multiple sources, adding that what was more important was that future incidents did not occur.
Last Friday, Shen, when grilled by legislators over the case, said the Kaohsiung County Government should shoulder 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].”
Among the protesters yesterday were students from Chao-liao elementary and middle schools who took leave to join the protest.
“Give us clean air! We don’t want to inhale poison every day!” the protesters shouted.
Taliao Township chief Huang Tian-huang (黃天煌) accused the EPA of failing to find the source of the gas leaks and for ignoring residents’ rights. The residents will besiege the sewage factory in the industrial park on Sunday if the Presidential Office fails to respond to the protest, he said.
The protesters demanded that the sewage factory be relocated, and urged the industrial park to conduct an environmental impact assessment.
Wu Ching-pin (吳清賓), director of Kaohsiung City’s Department of Labor Affairs, also joined the protest and called on the government to solve the problem as soon as possible to prevent further health risks to local residents.
Presidential Office Public Relations Director Eddy Tsai (蔡仲禮) later accepted the petition from the protesters.
The protest ended peacefully shortly after Tsai accepted the petition.