Wastewater is “likely” to be discharged in the Jhuoshui River (濁水溪) as a result of the Central Taiwan Science Park’s fourth-phase expansion project in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (二林), the National Science Council (NSC) said yesterday.
Local farmers and environmentalists have long opposed the project, which will divert water from farmland irrigation and possibly cause pollution through wastewater discharge. Since AU Optronics Corp confirmed that it would not establish a plant in the park, the NSC earlier this year proposed changing the park’s original focus on photonics to precision machinery.
The NSC has more than once stressed that the change has cut back the water usage to one-eighth of the original plan and the amount of diverted irrigation water to about one-fourth of the original plan in the medium term, resulting in less environmental impact to the area.
However, the location of the wastewater discharge remained a controversial issue at the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) meetings in October that studied the revised plan.
Government agencies related to the issue — the NSC, the Environmental Protection Administration, the Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Water Resources Agency — were asked to make a report on the issue at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.
Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) said the option of discharging the wastewater into the old Jhuoshui River and the new Jhuoshui River had been approved by the EIA before the plan was revised and although then-premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) promised to demand that the NSC move the discharge point into the sea at least 3km from the coastline, the NSC will still need to submit a proposal to be reviewed by the EIA.
NSC deputy director-general Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) said that after being asked by the EIA committee to compare the options of discharging the wastewater into the two rivers or recycling it, the park’s management came to the conclusion that discharging it into the river was the best option.
Responding to legislators’ questions about why the other options had been eliminated, Hochen said that while there are many uncertainties involved in constructing outlet pipes into the ocean, the recycling option is only feasible for single plants with one manufacturing process, but “hardly possible” for a campus of multiple plants with varying manufacturing processes. Hochen said the cost of recycling the wastewater would be so high it would stop companies from setting up in the park.
The COA’s report also agreed that discharging into the Jhuoshui River was the most practical option and suggested that environmental monitoring stations be established at certain sections of the river to oversee and evaluate the impact.
However, officials from the Yunlin County Environmental Protection Bureau said the COA is still in favor of a wastewater recycling plan and that the central government should not only promise to increase monitoring of the river, but should also promise local residents that the discharged wastewater will not pollute their farms.
In addition, a few environmentalists and representative of a local self-help association at the meeting a asked the NSC to come up with recycling solutions to protect the local environment and residents.