Fri, Apr 12, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Committee demands a petrochemical disaster center, improved alert system

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Water from several water cannons is directed at a fire at Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker complex in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township on Sunday.

Photo copied by Lin Kuo-hsien, Taipei Times

Members of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday demanded government agencies improve the disaster alert system and establish a national-level petrochemical disaster response center, following a gas explosion at Formosa Plastics Group’s (FPG, 台塑集團) naphtha cracker complex in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮).

The explosion on Sunday occurred at an aromatics production factory run by Formosa Chemicals & Fibre Corp (台灣化纖).

It was triggered by liquefied petroleum gas leaking from a cracked pipeline, FPG’s Mailiao management said later that day, adding that there were no casualties.

The county government fined the firm NT$5 million (US$161,990) for contravening the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法) and ordered it to halt operations at the factory.

The Environmental Protection Administration said that no regulated toxic substances were leaked.

The county government on Wednesday said a preliminary investigation found that the firm had detected a leak at about 9:30am on Sunday, but did not stop operations until 1:45pm, resulting in an explosion at 2:04pm.

To determine if there were any other reasons for the blast, officials would visit the complex on Monday to collect more information, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Chuan-neng (林全能) told the committee yesterday.

The ministry last year began a comprehensive examination of all pipelines at the complex’s 55 factories, Lin said, adding that it is expected to be finished next year.

Such checks should have been completed years ago after several accidents were reported at the complex, committee convener and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said, expressing fury over Lin’s response.

Liu along with other lawmakers tendered 17 motions requiring several government agencies to improve their disaster response mechanisms and set up a national-level petrochemical disaster response center.

The motions also asked the government to help victims seek compensation and tighten pollution and labor safety regulations at the naphtha cracker complex and other petrochemical factories.

Wu Ming-yi (吳明宜), a representative from the Mailiao Township Office invited to speak at the meeting, cited a female fishery worker living 4km from the complex as saying that she felt dizzy and was deafened in one ear after the blast.

“There must be other unreported injuries. The question is why the government knows nothing about local injuries,” Wu said.

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