After a five-month investigation of wastewater discharges at Taoyuan County’s industrial parks, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday said violations were frequent and that some firms could face fines of up to NT$10 million (US$343,000).
Environmentalists have more than once publicly called on the government to stop illegal wastewater discharges from the industrial parks at Tayuan (大園) and Guanyin (觀音) townships, and to stop the damage to rare algal reefs that began growing along the coast 7,500 years ago, which are now dying at an unprecedented rate.
Environmental Inspection Deputy Inspector General Yang Su-er (楊素娥) said the EPA initiated a five-month pollutant source inspection project near the reefs in April, and 81 violations involving 43 companies were discovered during 195 inspections in the area.
Bureau of Environmental Inspection North Branch Director Hsiao Chin-lang (蕭清郎) said three companies had been ordered to stop operations between May and June, and only resumed after improvements had been verified.
In addition, through in-depth investigations of several suspect companies during the five months period, the bureau also discovered that, apart from their previous methods of secretly discharging polluted wastewater through detoured subsurface pipes, companies now use various other ways to discharge the wastewater into rivers, Hsiao said.
The methods included saving the wastewater in hidden storage tanks and discharging it at night, diluting the wastewater with groundwater or tap water, mixing the wastewater with strong oxidant agents to affect the water quality test results and other methods, Hsiao said, saying that an important discovery this time was that some companies also commissioned waste treatment companies to assist in the illegal practices.
Companies violating the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法) can be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$600,000 for each case discovered in the inspections, Hsiao said.
“Due to time-consuming operations and limited inspection manpower, it is difficult to discover the illegal practices every time, and we fear that the fine is not enough to make the companies improve their water discharge treatment facilities,” Hsiao said.
The EPA would enforce the Administrative Penalty Act (行政罰法) for aggravated punishment or fine the companies further, Hsiao said, adding that treatment companies that have participated in the illegal discharges would also be fined.