The factories responsible for last month’s poisonous gas leaks at the Tafa Industrial Park in Kaohsiung County’s Taliao Township (大寮) have been identified, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.
“After days of intense investigation, we have narrowed down the list of factories likely responsible for the leaks to a few. Who should be targeted for compensation is now clear and Taliao residents can seek mediation. There is no need for [Taliao residents] to protest,” EPA Minister Steven Shen (沈世宏) said at a press conference in Taipei.
Shen said the Kaohsiung County Government should begin mediation between the Industrial Park and residents as soon as possible.
Shen made the comments in response to violent clashes yesterday involving Taliao residents and factories in the industrial park. A section chief at the park suffered a concussion and glass windows at a wastewater treatment plant were shattered with hammers and baseball bats by angry protesters. The protestors demanded that the plant supply a satisfactory proposal for how to resolve the dispute. They also threatened to stage a “bloodshed protest” on Friday.
The leaks first occurred on Dec. 1, when toxic gas, allegedly leaking from the industrial park to nearby Chaoliao Junior High School and Elementary School, sickened 82 students and teachers. The victims were hospitalized and treated for nausea, chest pains and dizziness.
Gas leaks affected villagers again on Dec. 12, Dec. 25 and Dec. 29.
Asked if the Kaohsiung County Government and the EPA were trying to shirk their responsibilities, Shen said: “The Public Nuisance Dispute Mediation Act clearly states who is responsible for what when such a dispute arises. The county government has to initiate the mediation. If those efforts fail, then the EPA has to step in.”
On Dec. 7, Shen identified seven “suspects” that could have contributed to the gas leaks, including two chemical container washing plants and five chemical plants. At the time, however, the identity of the culprit was something the EPA said it “could not be certain of,” Shen said.
Taliao residents said yesterday they still believed the wastewater treatment plant near the schools should shoulder most of the responsibility.
Shen denied media reports that the government had failed to identify the factories at fault, saying that all seven factories should discuss how to divide the compensation funds paid to residents, as all were “related to the poisonous gases” and could be asked to compensate the villagers for their suffering.
“If the factories feel they are innocent, they should offer evidence to support their claims, which will be investigated by the mediation committee,” he said.
“Compensation will come in two parts, one unspecified, which may be payable to all Taliao residents for their years of suffering, and another for the victims of the recent leaks,” Shen said, adding that while the former reimbursement could reach NT$100,000 per person, the latter could amount to NT$300,000 per person.