Thu, Oct 13, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Conflicting reports raise plant pollution concerns

GOVERNMENT STANDARDS:A lawmaker said Formosa Petrochemical’s insistence that it meets government standards does not mesh with reports from civil groups

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Man-li, second right, speaks at a press conference in Taipei yesterday as environmentalists listen.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Conflicting government reports raise concerns about the safety of Formosa Petrochemical Corp plants, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said at a news conference yesterday.

“In the past, ordinary people have trusted government tests of industrial facilities, but gradually we have discovered that the evaluations are not as on-target as they appear,” said Chen, a former Green Party member.

“Formosa Petrochemical tells us that there is no problem because it meets government standards, but government and civil society reports have reached conflicting conclusions,” she said.

She cited a Institute of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health study that showed levels of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) higher than government standards in the air at a Formosa Petrochemical factory in Kaohsiung’s Linyuan District (林園), where several measurements taken from instruments worn by employees throughout a day’s work showed levels exceeding 3,000 parts per billion.

The news conference follows controversy surrounding a Formosa Petrochemical plant in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮), with .students from the nearby Ciaotou Elementary School’s Syucuo branch being forced to relocate several times over the past few years after tests showed students had abnormally high levels of thioglycolic acid (TdGA), a chemical related to VCM, in their bodies.

While the discovery has drawn accusations that the factories have been leaking chemicals, Formosa Petrochemical has said that no abnormalities have been detected in government testing of plant employees, adding that the extra TdGA could be derived from sources other than VCM at its facilities.

However, Chen said that a National Health Research Institutes report said that exposure to VCM is closely correlated to high levels of TdGA in the urine of Formosa Petrochemical employees, with levels spiking sharply after employees had been at work in areas containing VCM.

Because the Environmental Protection Agency does not require testing or reporting of VCM levels, there is no way to verify that there was not a leak, Chen said, calling for new safety standards and mandatory testing of smokestacks and nearby areas.

Chang Kuo-min (張國民) — a deputy section chief in the Ministry of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration — said it was not clear whether the Institute of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health study had used the same measurement methods as his administration, which has consistently found that levels at the plants have been within legal limits.

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