Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers urge one agency to regulate chemicals

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday called for a single agency to coordinate the regulation of industrial chemicals, a task that is now split between nine agencies.

The committee met yesterday to discuss problems highlighted by the April 28 fire at the Chin-Poon Industrial Co printed circuit board factory in Taoyuan’s Pingjhen District (平鎮) that killed six firefighters and two Thai workers, including the lax government control of chemical substances stored at factories.

Concerns have also been raised about runoff from the water used to fight the fire, which is believed to have become chemically tainted, with the runoff polluting rivers in the area.

The committee required governmental agencies to report at yesterday’s meeting on the management and inspection of chemicals.

There have been several fires at factories in recent years, including one at the Sican Co factory in Taoyuan last year that killed six migrant workers, but different government agencies regulate the importation, storage, use and emission of chemicals without a central coordinator, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Arthur Chen (陳宜民) said.

Once draft amendments to the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法) are passed, the Cabinet will establish a national board for chemical management, coordinated by his agency, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) told lawmakers.

KMT Legislator Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) asked how the EPA plans to tackle such a situation, as some high-tech companies, such as electro-optical engineering and semiconductor firms, might refuse to reveal the substances they use to protect their patents.

The EPA would require firms to report the amount of flammable and explosive substances stored at their factories without forcing them to reveal trade secrets, Lee said, adding that chemical storage inspections are conducted by other ministries.

The Chin-Poon fire highlighted the division among agencies, given each seems to do its own job without sharing information with the others, KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said.

Responding to questions from Wang, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Director-General Tzou Tzu-lien (鄒子廉) said the Ministry of Labor agency has launched a special program to inspect 180 printed circuit board firms, covering more than 70 percent of such companies in the nation.

“The National Fire Agency is considering conducting joint inspections with the ministry,” agency Director-General Chen Wen-lung (陳文龍) said, adding it would ask companies and factories to provide firefighters on duty with floor plans detailing the storage locations of chemicals.

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