Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Pollution law changes questioned

NOT ENOUGH:The Green Citizen’s Action Alliance has urged the EPA to take more polluters into consideration when it drafts amendments to existing pollution laws

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

A coalition of environmental groups protest against a draft revision of a statute of the Water Pollution Control Act in Taipei yesterday. The group is calling for a more inclusive regulation framework and real-time pollution data updates.

Photo: Chen Wei-han, Taipei Times

Environmental groups yesterday rallied in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) building in Taipei, demanding a more inclusive measure of water pollution control to put all effluent dischargers under monitoring and to instantly publish pollution data online.

Last month, the EPA announced draft amendments to the Regulations Governing Water Pollution Control Measures and Test Reporting Management (水污染防治措施及檢測申報管理辦法), stipulating that plants that discharge 1,500m3 — lowered from the previous 15,000m3 — of effluent every day must install automatic monitoring equipment at sewage pipes that could instantly transmit monitoring data to local environmental agencies.

The draft amendments will put 273 enterprises, in addition to the previous 84 entities, nationwide under monitoring, according to the EPA’s announcement.

Commending the EPA’s plans to lower the regulation threshold, Green Citizen’s Action Alliance deputy secretary-general Hung Shen-han (洪申翰) said that the 273 enterprises represent only 1.3 percent of the nation’s 21,251 factories listed on the EPA’s regulation list, and the EPA should take more polluters into account when drafting new amendments.

Monitoring equipment would only transmit data to local environmental agencies rather than the EPA, and the public is unable to access real-time data, Hung said, adding that the alliance called for the instantaneous publication of such data on the EPA Web site to enable a swift response mechanism and overall civic participation in pollution control.

Saying that Chinese authorities are doing a better job than their Taiwanese counterparts by making public all pollution data online, Hung produced a document captured from the Zhejiang Province government Web site, where real time pollutant monitoring data are updated every hour.

“Why can Taiwan not do it while China can?” he asked.

Referencing pollution caused by effluent improperly discharged by advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc (日月光半導體) into the Houjin River (後勁溪) in Kaohsiung in 2013, alliance researcher Tseng Hung-wen (曾虹文) said that some pollutants could not be detected with the naked eye, so real-time data transmission and publication is key to curbing such activity.

The Environmental Jurists Association said that the Freedom of Government Information Act (政府資訊公開法) stipulated that only data whose revelation would impede government administration could not be disclosed, while pollution monitoring data does not fall into the category and therefore should be made public.

The EPA said that although the number of entities affected by the amendments is relatively few, they actually account for 80 percent of all the effluent discharged nationwide.

Meanwhile, the EPA contradicted a previous announcement, saying that entities to be regulated by the proposed amendments are only required to install electronic bulletin boards to display real-time pollution data, which would not be transmitted to local authorities or the EPA.

The alliance said that such a public notice measure would require residents and environmentalists to travel to factories to monitor wastewater discharge, obstructing effective pollution control.

The alliance added that the measure runs counter to the open- data policy touted by the Executive Yuan, while the EPA said that it would try to have all real-time pollution data published on its Web site after another round of legislation, without giving a definitive timetable.

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