Concerned about the damage to algal reefs caused by industrial pollution along Taoyuan County’s seashore, environmentalists yesterday said high levels of the radioactive elements cesium and zirconium have been found in waters in the area.
Liou Ching-yu (劉靜榆), an associate researcher at the Endemic Species Research Institute, who has been doing research on algal reefs for a number of years, said the algal reefs began developing about 7,500 years ago and occupied the area about 4,500 years ago.
Currently, there is 27km of algal reef along the coastline of Taoyuan County. However, reef-forming algae, which is an important habitat for marine biology, can only be found in a 4km section between Guanyin (觀音) and Sinwu (新屋) townships, Liou said.
“The speed at which algal reefs are dying [from pollution] in the area is much faster than expected,” and the numbers of marine animals such as crabs and fish living in the algal reefs have been declining rapidly in recent years, she said.
Showing video clips of polluted rivers, Liou said they had found black polluted water with streams flowing from subsurface pipes into the nearby rivers. Last month, following a sour odor in the air, they also discovering algal reefs dying from bleaching at the low-water line and pieces flaking away due to acid erosion.
In addition, Liou said water quality testing on the area’s sea water this year showed high levels of cesium and zirconium — up to about 3,000 and 4,000 parts per million (ppm), higher than the levels tested at the algal reefs area near Cape Linshanbi (麟山鼻), closer to the two operating nuclear power plants in New Taipei City (新北市).
Green Formosa Front standing director Lin Chang-mao (林長茂) said zirconium is used in making the outer layer of fuel rods in nuclear reactors and he worries that tetrapods placed along the shore near the area have been contaminated by nuclear radiation.
Dajyue River Culture Association member Pan Chung-cheng (潘忠政) said that having patrolled the rivers for many years, he has found that reporting water pollution effects little change, mentioning the case of a 24-hour water monitoring facility set up by the local environmental protection bureau which did not operate at all last year.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said: “The Executive Yuan has just initiated the Taoyuan Aerotropolis (桃園航空城) project near the area, which has a total budget of NT$463 billion [US$15.8 billion], but if the government allows these thousand of years old algal reefs to die, it will become a disgraceful situation for foreigners to see.”