Armed with data from Houjing River (後勁溪), environmental activists yesterday asked the government to immediately suspend operations at Formosa Plastics’ plant in Kaohsiung County’s Renwu (仁武), saying the firm had failed to contain groundwater pollution.
Joan Tsai (蔡卉荀), a researcher at Mercy on the Earth, Taiwan (MET), said her group had been monitoring the water quality of Houjing River since 2000, and found the water was polluted with volatile organic compounds (VOC) containing chlorine.
“We long suspected it was caused by the Renwu plant,” Tsai said. “However, this was not confirmed until this year, when the Environmental Protection Administration [EPA] conducted an inspection and found groundwater pollution emanating from the Renwu plant.”
She said the association had worked with a professor at National Kaohsiung Marine University to sample water from 14 groundwater circulation wells.
“We have been monitoring pollutant levels in the river for five months since the EPA found groundwater pollution in Renwu,” she said. “By examining 1,800 data entries, we found that the river contained VOCs, including chloroform, vinyl chloride monomer, 1,2-dichloroethane and dichloromethane.”
The levels were 1.3 times to 7.35 times higher than EPA standards allowed, she said. MET secretary-general Lee Ken-cheng (李根政) said Formosa Plastics claimed the groundwater circulation wells could pump up the polluted water and pump it back when the VOCs in the water evaporated.
“However, the evidence shows this strategy has failed to stop the pollution from spreading,” Lee said. “This means the measures taken by the Renwu plant to contain pollution have been absolutely useless.”
MET said the plant must immediately stop operations, and the government should try to determine how far the pollution has spread, and launch a health-risk assessment and epidemiological investigations in downstream areas.
Tsai Meng-yu (蔡孟裕), deputy director of Kaohsiung County’s Environmental Protection Bureau, said it would take a long time to determine if the pollutants had spread.
He said the bureau’s bi-monthly inspections showed the pollutant levels were actually decreasing.
“It is possible that the water in the wells was contaminated because of accumulated pollution from the past,” he said. “You cannot say the evidence shows the pollution from Renwu is spreading. One has to compare the data collected during both the rainy and dry seasons.”
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