An environmental advocacy group yesterday accused Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) and AU Optronics Corp (AUO) of having caused water pollution for years and continuing to discharge more than 24,000 tonnes of wastewater into a river in Hsinchu County every day.
Wastewater discharge from the two companies’ LCD plants in Taoyuan County has sparked protests from residents over the years amid disputes over toxicity levels and whether wastewater should be discharged into Siaoli River (霄裡溪) in Hsinchu County or Laojie River (老街溪) in Taoyuan County.
The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) amended the drinking water management regulations in 2009 listing safety levels for two heavy metal substances — indium and molybdenum, at 70ug/L, Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan (CET) said.
However, based on the EPA’s water quality monitoring data from wells near Siaoli River, molybdenum levels reached 91.2ug/L in November 2010, CET Taipei Office director Millie Lee (李怡蒨) said.
Tests last year also showed that molybdenum levels surpassed safety levels five times in three consecutive months last year, including a test that yielded 138.2ug/L — almost two times the safety level — at a well in March last year, she added.
Lee said people living nearby drink water from those wells.
“They have been drinking this water for 13 years,” she said, accusing the EPA of concealing from residents that the water contained excessive levels of heavy metal substances.
“Molybdenum can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and affect weight, digestion and uric acid levels. It is especially harmful to people with chronic liver or kidney disease,” she said, adding that about 35,000 people are drinking water from the wells.
The group added that while the EPA’s water quality monitoring data showed that the indium and molybdenum levels had dropped below safety levels since July last year, this is because the two companies now use vehicles to transfer large amounts of highly concentrated wastewater for processing at Taoyuan’s Kuanyin Industrial Park.
However, up to 24,000 tonnes of wastewater from the two companies continue to be discharged into the river every day, it said.
The CET said the EPA should demand that the two companies stop discharging polluted wastewater into Siaoli River and begin collecting health data from nearby residents for evaluation.
Hsu Yung-hsing (許永興), director of the EPA’s Department of Water Quality, said the agency had not concealed anything from the public, and its water quality monitoring data is available to the public.
Hsu added that the heavy metal substances discovered in the water had not yet been proven to have originated from the two companies.
The EPA has instructed nearby households that rely on water from the wells to switch to alternative water supplies, and has asked the two firms to present plans to improve water quality.