Holding up a recent epidemiological survey report to show that pollution from Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s sixth naphtha cracker in Mailiao (麥寮) has negatively impacted local people’s health, environmental protection groups yesterday urged the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to reject a proposal to expand the facility.
Before an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) meeting was held at the EPA yesterday to review Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s fourth-phase expansion of its plant, the campaigners staged a demonstration, calling for the administration to halt all reviews of the plans until the health risks of local people have been thoroughly evaluated.
A report from a three-year epidemiological survey, commissioned by the Yunlin County Government and conducted by a research team led by Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, was released on Monday. It shows that the petrochemical plant had worsened air quality within a 10km radius of the industrial plant, including increases in traditional air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as well as an increase of carcinogenic air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
In addition, the survey report concluded that the lung, liver and kidney functions of those who have resided within a 10km radius of the petrochemical plant for more than five years were all affected by the plant. It also mentioned that residents’ blood and cardiovascular systems were adversely affected.
President of the Yunlin County Shallow Waters Aquaculture Association Lin Jin-lang (林進郎) said the pollution emitted by the plant affects the nearby oyster farming industry the most, with many accidents at petrochemical plants in recent years. He added that the report also serves as evidence that the industry is harmful to people’s health and so the EPA should reject the expansion plans.
Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said the three Analysis Reports on the Difference of the Environmental Impact Assessment (a document presented in circumstances where a developer applies to modify an already-approved EIA) presented by Formosa Petrochemical Corp for scale expansion plans at its sixth naphtha cracker this year, should not be allowed.
“Formosa Petrochemical Corp has many companies and subcompanies and if it continues to propose the retirement of one plant in exchange for the establishment of others, the scale of expansion projects will become endless,” Chen said, adding that the cases should have passed the stricter EIA process, instead of allowing them to be separated into three smaller projects, meaning they only have to pass easier reviews.
Janis Wang (王佳貞) from the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association said the three aromatic hydrocarbon plants’ accumulated output has increased from 1.45 tonnes per year to 2.03 million tonnes, which already exceeds the maximum limit of a 10 percent output increase for an Analysis Report on the Difference of the Environmental Impact Assesment and should therefore be required to gain approval through the stricter EIA process.
In the Formosa Petrochemical Corp report, the firm promised to reduce water usage and greenhouse gas emissions in certain plant operations, although the total plants’ output capacity is still set to increase by 6.01 percent.
“I don’t understand the logic behind the developers saying that they will reduce the emission levels of some pollutants in exchange for increased emission levels for other pollutants,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) from Yunlin County said, adding that many people doubt Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s promises to improve the environment.
Officials from Yunlin County Government suggested that the total emissions of benzene, a carcinogenic air pollutant, should be evaluated, and that Formosa Petrochemical Corp should also put forth healthcare service plans for those people living in nearby areas.
Committee members decided to place the expansion project plans on hold, pending further review, while the developer was required to provide supplementary documents.