While the wastewater discharge plan for the Central Taiwan Science Park’s fourth-phase development project in Changhua County’s Erlin Township (二林) remains a controversial issue for local farmers and environmentalists, the National Science Council (NSC) has said that total wastewater recycling is hardly feasible and will impede investment.
Last year, the NSC received approval from the Cabinet for its proposal to change the park’s focus from photonics to precision machinery and announced that the change would lead to a large reduction in water usage and water diverted from irrigation supplies, as well as wastewater discharge.
Although the council had said the new focus on precision machinery would reduce the environmental impact, especially as wastewater from the optoelectronics and photonics industry often contains chemicals, controversy remains about where the park’s wastewater will be discharged.
Environmentalists, local farmers and aquaculture breeders have expressed concern that wastewater discharged into either the old Jhuoshui River (濁水溪) or the new Jhuoshui River may affect the environment and their farms, and insisted that it should be discharged directly into the ocean or be given to the companies to recycle properly.
NSC Deputy Director-General Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) on Friday said the Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) environmental impact assessment (EIA) committee in 2009 already approved wastewater discharge into either of the two rivers, on the basis that suggested measures to reduce the environmental impact would be enforced.
In addition, the revised plan limits discharge to a maximum capacity of 20,000 cubic meters per day and forbids industries with copper manufacturing processes to operate in the park, he said.
“It’s too good to be true, at least for now,” Hochen said, adding that total wastewater recycling is hardly possible because the estimated cost of recycled water is about NT$88 per tonne, while tap water costs only about NT$10 per tonne.
“All rational companies are likely to refuse to invest in the park if total water recycling is required, unless it becomes a national regulation that all companies have to follow,” Hochen said.
The disposal of mud containing highly concentrated chemical residue from wastewater recycling will also become a problem, he said.
Environmental problems are caused by high density of certain substances in river water, but if diluted to a low density they become harmless, he added.
He said the revised plan has also received approval from an EIA specialists’ meeting held at the EPA last week, and will be sent to the next EIA convention for final approval.