Thu, Mar 07, 2019 - Page 2 News List

EPA denies it fudges data for big polluters

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Nearly 20,000 air pollution readings a year are labeled invalid due to facility maintenance or malfunctions, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday, rejecting accusations that it conceals or massages data for big polluters.

The Chinese-language Commonwealth Magazine (天下雜誌) on Tuesday last week reported that nearly two out of three pollution readings last year that exceeded legal standards were concealed in the EPA’s continuous emissions monitoring system.

The number of PM2.5 readings in the system that were labeled invalid increased from 20,640 entries in 2016 to 33,661 in 2017 and 39,456 last year, environmental group Air Clean Taiwan told a news conference yesterday, calling on the Control Yuan and judiciary to investigate whether the EPA was derelict in its duties.

The Legislative Yuan’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee would soon require the EPA to report on the matter, said Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國), one of the committee’s two conveners for the current legislative session.

Some air pollution readings are labeled invalid due to regular maintenance on the automatic monitoring devices at the agency’s 77 stations nationwide, EPA Department of Environmental Monitoring and Information Management Deputy Director Wang Yueh-bin (王嶽斌) said.

Last year, the agency recorded 17,314 entries with invalid data, down from 18,853 entries in 2017 and 21,943 in 2016, and lower than Air Clean Taiwan’s figures, because “no data” in entries means that PM2.5 was not tested for and the entries should not be counted, the department said.

The age of some monitoring devices — some are more than 15 years old — can contribute to data problems, Wang said, adding that the agency expects to update devices for measuring PM2.5 concentrations by the end of this year and those for measuring gaseous pollutants by next year.

Even so, available data rates reached 98.05 percent in 2017 and 97.88 percent last year, higher than the national threshold of 75 percent, which is based on US standards, he said.

EPA workers also manually collect air samples from 31 stations nationwide every three days for more careful laboratory testing, he added.

The emissions monitoring system records emissions from 313 exhausts at 108 factories in the cement, steel, waste disposal, petrochemical and paper industries, and the agency plans to tighten regulations governing reporting, Department of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control technical specialist Chen Yueh-shih (陳月詩) said.

All readings are kept in the system, even if some are labeled invalid, Chen said, adding that local environmental bureaus contact factories when they find unusual entries in the system.

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