Following protests by residents from Hsinchu County’s Sinpu Township (新埔) at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taipei on Tuesday, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) meeting yesterday banned the discharge of wastewater from new plants in the area.
Wastewater discharges from Chunghwa Picture Tubes and AU Optronics Corp (AUO) in Taoyuan County’s Longtan Township (龍潭) into the Siaoli River (霄裡溪), which lies upstream of Hsinchu County, have been problematic for many years. A 2009 EIA decision to discharge wastewater into Taoyuan County’s Laojie River (老街溪) has also been the cause of controversy.
An EIA meeting in February concluded that while the proposal for increased production output was allowed at the Longtan Aspire Intelligent Industrial Park, where the AUO plant is located, new plants were prohibited from discharging wastewater into the Siaoli River.
Despite that conclusion, the Ministry of Economic Affairs declared in March that the Siaoli River was no longer a source of potable water, meaning that wastewater discharge was permitted. As a result, AUO requested a review of the EIA decision on no additional discharges and the case was reviewed at the EPA on Tuesday.
Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan (CET) Taipei Office director Millie Lee (李怡蒨) said hazardous industrial wastewater discharged from the two companies has already polluted the drinking water of about 1,000 households living along the Siaoli River for more than a decade and if the government does not act responsibly in monitoring water quality, it would be akin to passing a death sentence on the river.
A committee member at the EIA meeting in March 2009 had said water quality tests showed heavy metals in the Siaoli, which might harm human immune systems if ingested, the CET said, adding that the ministry should not be able to change the water classification without a legal basis.
The EIA meeting retained its original February conclusion that no additional wastewater could be discharged into the river.