Fri, Apr 22, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Toxic waste uncovered in Tainan’s ponds, farmland

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Industrial waste was found dumped in farmlands and fishponds in Tainan’s Annan District (安南), with about 10 hectares of land thought to be polluted.

Electric arc furnace slag, coal ash, incinerator bottom ash and sludge were allegedly found buried in several plots covering about 5 hectares in the district, the Tainan Environmental Protection Bureau said, adding that soil samples collected from the plots contained high concentrations of heavy metals.

A joint task force consisting of prosecutors, police and environmental agents inspected the area and raided nine other locations in Tainan, Yunlin and Kaohsiung on Wednesday, as it has been tracking a waste reprocessing facility in Tainan that allegedly dumped industrial waste collected from Tainan, Yunlin County and Kaohsiung, the Tainan District Prosecutors’ Office said.

Prosecutors have detained more than 30 people for questioning, including Show Chwan Healthcare System president Huang Min-ho (黃明和), for suspected violations of the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法). Huang was later released on a NT$300,000 bail.

According to media reports, Huang owns the polluted plots, which he allowed the reprocessing facility to use as a gravel repository, but prosecutors found the facility to be a shell company, and are trying to find the person behind the alleged dumping operation.

The incident was exposed by environmentalists, including Tainan Community University environmental and natural sciences manager Chao Jui-kuang (晁瑞光).

Chao said local residents informed him of suspected dumping activities in Annan about two months ago, as a lot of gravel trucks were depositing colorful materials at local farmlands and fishponds.

Chao and fellow environmentalists sneaked into the properties and collected samples of dumped materials, which showed high levels of zinc, copper, nickel and chromium, he said.

“We discovered white, brown, gray and light-yellow materials, which appeared to be slag, incinerator bottom ash and sludge of different origins. The odor was horrible and samples we collected showed high concentrations of heavy metals that significantly exceeded legal limits,” he said, adding that they reported the case to the police and the prosecutors’ office.

Several properties covering 5 to 6 hectares surrounding the dump sites were also suspected of being polluted with toxic waste, as satellite images showed that the area had been excavated and later filled with unknown materials, and prosecutors intend to carry out excavations of the area, Chao said.

“Many illegal dumping activities can be attributed to laws that allow the reuse of industrial waste, which enables reprocessors to ‘greenwash’ waste materials and dump them illegally,” Chao said.

Although industrial waste such as slag can be reused, there is little demand for slag products, so many reprocessors decide to dump them because they would not sell,” he said, calling on the Environmental Protection Administration and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to revise laws to curb illegal dumping of reusable waste.

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