A fire that broke out on Friday at a petrochemical factory in Greater Kaohsiung operated by state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan, might have emitted toxic gases, an environmental protection group said yesterday, urging the company to stick to its promise to close down and relocate the refinery by 2015.
Later in the evening, Greater Kaohsiung’s Environmental Protection Bureau fined the refinery complex NT$1 million (US$34,000) for emitting a noxious odor at a level found to be well beyond the legal standard.
It was the second fine the municipality had slapped on the facility within a 12-hour period.
Earlier on Friday it fined the company NT$1 million for the heavy smoke that billowed out of a butadiene storage facility at the complex’s naphtha cracking plant after being engulfed by the fire.
Both NT$1 million fines were the maximum that can be assessed for violations of the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法).
The fire, which started at 3:35am on Friday and was sparked by a fractured pipe, took firefighters more than five hours to extinguish.
According to CPC, no individuals were injured or killed during the accident, and no toxic gas or wastewater leaked out of the complex.
However, non-governmental organization (NGO) Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, said 1,3-butadiene might have escaped.
1,3-butadiene is listed as a Category 2 toxic chemical substance according to the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法), and regarded as a carcinogen which might also cause harm to reproductive health.
The group said it was highly suspicious when CPC said no toxic gas had been emitted during the incident.
The organization said CPC should act responsibly and inform local residents about the possible danger as soon as possible so they can take preventative measures.
A third party with related expertise should be asked to investigate the cause of the fire, as well as evaluate its impact on human health and the environment, it added.
CPC promised the government in 1990 to “relocate after 25 years,” the organization said. There are only 1,366 days until the deadline, it said, urging CPC to keep its promise.
Additional reporting by CNA