Miramar site polluting soil: group

WHO TO BELIEVE?:Environmental activists claim that soil samples collected from the site of the controversial resort reveal toxic levels of chromium, which the firm denied

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 - Page 3

Environmentalists yesterday said soil samples near the controversial Miramar Resort Village in Taitung County’s Shanyuan Beach (杉原沙灘) were found to contain exceedingly high levels of chromium, but the company said its test reports showed the levels were within safe limits.

After the Supreme Administrative Court ruled last month that the construction permit to build the resort was invalid, many environmentalists have urged the government to tear down the building.

However, the Taitung County Government, which gave permission for the build-operate-transfer development project, told the Ministry of Interior on Monday that the court had found the first construction permit in 2005 invalid, adding that since another permit was granted in 2008 for a larger area and an environmental impact assessment was underway, the hotel was not an illegal construction.

At Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan’s office in Taipei yesterday, Tainan Community University researcher Wu Jen-pang (吳仁邦) said heavy metal contamination tests on soil samples collected from seven sites near the hotel on Oct. 4 showed that three of the samples contained chromium concentrations exceeding the soil quality standard of 250 parts per million (ppm).

Wu said he suspects the chromium comes from the hotel construction and may have been the result of the illegal mixing of bottom ashes or industrial waste with cement. Wu added he is “concerned that the heavy metal contaminated soil will negatively affect visitors’ health.”

“Since 2009, our investigations have shown that many coral reefs have been contaminated with dirt and sand. We are now even more concerned that they may be contaminated by the heavy metal substances found in the soil samples,” said the director of Taiwan Environmental Info Association’s Environmental Trust Center, Sun Hsiu-ju (孫秀如).

Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳), director of Citizen’s Hualien and Taitung offices, said the hotel had violated the law many times during its construction and damaged the surrounding environment so the government should tear it down.

In response, Miramar’s Development Department section head Lin Hong-che (林弘哲) provided a test report as evidence that the soil was not contaminated and said the company had commissioned Cheng Shiu University — whose lab is approved by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) — to conduct soil quality examinations in June.

During the press conference, Wu said the test results provided by Miramar were derived using the elution method, in which the soil samples are dissolved in an acidic solution before testing, often resulting in inaccurate readings. Wu added that Miramar should instead use total concentration analysis to provide more accurate test results.

Miramar then issued a press release in the evening saying that their test results had indeed been derived using total concentration analysis.

The EPA has also sent an inspection team to collect samples.