Holding photographs of the polluted Dadu River (大肚溪), protesters gathered in front of the Control Yuan yesterday morning to call on the government body to investigate the agencies that they say have been skirting responsibility for cleanup work.
Changhua Environmental Protection Union president Shy Yueh-ing (施月英) said toxic heavy metal and dioxin dust found at the mouth of the river, which flows between Taichung and Changhua counties, has been a problem for 20 years and the pollutants are still being carried away by seawater when the tide rises.
Shy said the matter was reported to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) earlier this year, but no moves have been made to clean it up.
Shy showed a document from the Ministry of Economic Affairs issued in June that said the pollution problem was known about last year.
She asked why the government frequently skirted responsibility and would not clean up the river.
Chao Jui-kuang (晁瑞光), environmental and natural sciences manager at Tainan Community University, said: “We highly doubt the government’s emergency response capabilities because it already knew about the toxic waste.”
Taiwan Academy of Ecology secretary-general Tsai Chih-hao (蔡志豪) said that when he visited the site last month, dioxin-polluted furnace dust covered an area that extended more than 20km along the river.
The factories used activated charcoal to absorb dioxins and illegally dumped the industrial waste along the river, Tsai said, adding that crabs and birds could be seen feeding on the polluted wetland, which meant that the toxic substances are entering the food chain.
Wild at Heart Legal Defense Foundation chairman Robin Winkler said they had hopes, but very few expectations, as to the actions the Control Yuan would take.
Although it has the authority to investigate whether government agencies are guilty of unlawful actions or misconduct, they have not seen it do so in the past, he said, calling on the Control Yuan to enforce its authority rather than only do research and gather information about the situation.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) said the government had failed to deal with the problem after a press conference in April, and as such, she planned to organize a trip to the Sanitation, Environment and Social Welfare Committee to investigate the issue and monitor the government’s response.
EPA Soil and Groundwater Remediation Fund Management Board deputy executive secretary Chen Chun-ming (陳峻明) said the administration would not neglect the problem, but that the Third River Management Office, also a government agency, had been a little slow in commissioning the cleanup work.
He confirmed that investigations by the EPA had showed that about 4,950 tonnes of toxic and dioxin-polluted dust had been deposited on riverbanks.
The waste disposal plan by the Third River Management Office was approved by the Changhua County Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 15, Chen said, adding that cleanup work would take about three months.