Pollutants in Yunlin County’s Sinhuwei River (新虎尾溪) and Bajiaoting canal (八角亭大排) come primarily from wastewater from pig farms, and the planned installation of 6,300 “pig toilets” next year should help cut back wastewater production, according to a Yunlin County Government official.
Yeh Te-hui (葉德惠), chief of the county government’s Environmental Protection Department, said it aims to gain funding from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to establish biogas centers to reduce the amount of pollutants pumped into local rivers.
Biogas is a fuel produced by the breakdown of organic matter such as feces and kitchen waste, and is a type of bio fuel.
According to the department, Yunlin County is an area where pig farming is a major industry, with twice as many pigs in the county as there are people, and swine producing six times more waste than humans.
As a result the county government is trying hard to balance the regional economy with environmental concerns.
Downstream areas of the Beigang River (北港溪) and the Bajiouting and Dayilun (大義崙) canals are the most heavily polluted, the department said, adding that there is a large concentration of pig farms in the areas where these waterways are located.
Even if wastewater from farms falls within permitted levels, the total amount of wastewater is still sufficient to cause severe pollution, Yeh said.
The innovative “pig toilet” concept and biogas plants to convert waste into either energy or organic fertilizer should hopefully resolve the issue, Yeh said.
The “pig toilet” concept utilizes the fact that swine — contrary to stereotypical views — are animals that like to be clean and have fixed places to defecate.
The concept aims to gather all swine defecation in one location on farms, Yeh said, adding that 95 percent of all swine should — by training or instinct — head to that area when they feel the call of nature.
Training piglets to go to the location to defecate from a young age would also be beneficial, Yeh said.
The centralized gathering of waste makes cleaning much easier, which in turn reduces the chances of pigs becoming sick, Yeh said.
The county government’s Stable Development of Agriculture Fund is funding the first 6,000 sets of “pig toilets,” while the administration would subsidize another 300, Yeh said.
Hopefully these measures would allow the government to balance out environmental concerns with the economy, Yeh said.