Formosa Plastics fined by EPA

CLEANING UP: The Kaohsiung County Government said it would establish a taskforce of experts to determine the severity of soil and groundwater pollution in the area

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Apr 21, 2010 - Page 2

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday proposed raising a fine imposed on Formosa’s Plastics’ (台塑) petrochemical plant in Renwu (仁武), Kaohsiung County, to NT$150 million (US$4.7 million) for causing soil and groundwater pollution.

Despite the pollution, the EPA said it would not ask Formosa to stop operations at the plant.

“Whether the plant is in operation is unrelated to the success of the remediation ­project,” said Chen Hsien-heng (陳咸亨), ­Director-General of the EPA’s Department of Water Quality Protection. “If the Renwu plant manages to contain the pollutants and executes the remediation project approved by the government, then asking it to halt operations would be unnecessary.”

Chen said an investigation showed the Renwu plant had been aware of the groundwater pollution since December 2003, but did not report the problem to the administrative authority in charge, nor did it take immediate action to address the matter, he said.

“The plant did not install groundwater circulation wells to curb the leaking pollutants until after EPA officials started investigating last year,” Chen said.

The Renwu plant had also applied for rebates worth approximately NT$39 million on fees paid for soil pollution management between 2002 and 2008 on the grounds that it made investments to halt the spread of pollutants, he said.

Chen said the Renwu plant could be fined a maximum of NT$600,000 for violating Article 28 of the Water Pollution Control Act (水汙染防治法).

The EPA cited the Administrative Penalty Act (行政罰法), which considers a wider range of factors, such as the benefits gained, before determining the level of the fine.

Chen said the EPA considered several factors, including investments in the infrastructure that Formosa should have made to contain the pollutants and the interest accrued by saving the supposedly invested money in bank accounts.

The result was eight proposals for penalties, with fines ranging from NT$38 million to NT$150 million.

The EPA said the fine would be determined by the number of wells Formosa had to drill to pump out the polluted groundwater.

The EPA said in a statement that the environmental protection bureau of the Kaohsiung County Government would form a taskforce of experts recommended by all parties involved to assess the severity of soil and groundwater pollution caused by the plant.

They would then determine how many wells need to be drilled to remedy the problem.

Chen said the plan has since installed 14 groundwater circulation wells, adding that levels of trichloromethane and other chemicals in the Houchin River (後勁溪) next to the Renwu plant had been gradually reduced.