A group of protesters demonstrated in front of the Presidential Office yesterday to urge the government to clean up the toxic heavy metal and dioxin dust polluting the river mouth of their beloved Dadu River (大肚溪), which flows between Taichung and Changhua Counties.
They sprinkled toxic dirt gathered from the polluted area on a Mother’s Day “cake” that had a stuffed dolphin on it, symbolizing the endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins which can be found near the Changhua County coastline.
“We love the Dadu River. We don’t want dioxin,” they shouted as they carried the cake to the gates of the Presidential Office.
They said they wanted to present the cake, which was made out of slag and furnace dust, along with their petition to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The protesters appealed for the withdrawal of a proposal to construct a Dadu River dam and called for efforts to clean up the toxic heavy metal and dioxin waste at the river mouth and nearby farmland.
Huang Huan-chang (黃煥彰), an associate professor at Chunghua University of Medical Technology’s department of nursing, said early last month that the level of dioxin in the soil at the river mouth was 2.5 times the normal standard.
After on-site inspection with Changhua Environmental Protection Union president Shy Yueh-Ing (施月英) and officials from Changhua County’s Environmental Protection Department in March, and further inspections with related agencies last month, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) confirmed on April 7 that the intertidal zone, as well as the Dadu River Estuary Wildlife Refuge, have toxic waste levels above the hazardous industrial waste standard.
The EPA said it would instruct the related agencies to deal with the problem in accordance with the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法).
“The government should take immediate measures to clean up the toxic waste now. It just shouldn’t prohibit vehicles from going to the reported area and leave it as it is.” Shy said, adding that the polluted area is about 9 hectares.
“We know it will take a long time to clean up all the toxic waste, but we ask for the government to first deal with the areas reached by the tides reach so that the pollution doesn’t spread further,” said Tainan Community University’s Wu Jen-pang (吳仁邦), who returned to the polluted site in the afternoon after attending the protest in the morning.
“Dioxin is said to be the deadliest pollutant and be harmful to humans who eat fish that have been poisoned, and I can see people fishing right now in the polluted area.” he said, adding that the county government had put up a sign telling people not to go into the polluted area, but did not warn about how harmful it could be.
Tsai Hung-teh (蔡鴻德), executive secretary of the EPA’s Soil and Groundwater Remediation Fund Management Board, said the administration had asked Water Resources Agency’s (WRA) Third River Management Office to submit a waste disposal plan to Changhua County before July 1.
Saying the situation need thorough research, investigation, as well as a budget estimate, before action could be taken, Tsai added that the agency has conducted research on farms near the polluted area and put up “No Fishing” signs.
When asked whether there is a time-table to tackle the issue, Tsai said the EPA would urge the relevant agencies to deal with the pollutants as soon as possible once a plan is approved.