Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) yesterday said the agency would request Formosa Petrochemical Corp provide health checks for residents living near the company’s naphtha cracker in Yunlin County’ Mailiao (麥寮).
Officials from the EPA, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Council of Labor Affairs were asked to report on the issues surrounding petrochemical accidents at factories, such as environmental pollution and health risks, at the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee.
According to the EPA’s report made by Shen, 35 petrochemical accidents that led to air pollution have been reported throughout the nation since May 2008, about half of which occurred at Formosa’s naphtha cracker.
The DOH’s report said it had participated in three meetings held by the EPA last year on non-monetary compensation methods and long-term health check ups for residents living close to petrochemical industrial zones, and a consensus on Formosa funding health exams for residents had been reached.
However, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) asked if the recommendation will be put into effect and whether it is legally binding.
Shen said the recommendation was not legally binding and the EPA does not have the authority to force Formosa to adhere to it, but that the agency would make efforts to make the provision of free health checks for locals a required condition for the cracker to pass its environmental impact assessment (EIA).
DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said the standards of health risk assessments should be re-evaluated and epidemiological reports should be used as reference in establishing new criteria as well as long-term follow-up investigations.
Legislators also questioned the EPA’s decision to limit the cracker’s volatile organic compounds emissions to 4,302 tonnes, seen by some as an obstruction to economic development.
Shen said that the laws regulating the EIA process should be amended so that developers and industry authorities can take in opinions from all sides before projects are submitted for an EIA.