Scattering carrots, grains, eggs and oyster shells on the ground, about 100 farmers from Yunlin and Changhua counties yesterday protested in front of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) along with environmentalists and legislators, demand that the Central Taiwan Science Park’s (CTSP) fourth-phase expansion project to be forced to recycle all of its wastewater.
In 2009, the EPA approved an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) allowing the park to discharge its industrial wastewater into either the new Jhuoshui River (濁水溪) or the old Jhuoshui River,.
The Executive Yuan later promised that the wastewater from the park would be discharged into the ocean to avoid pollution of nearby farms.
However, the park’s core industry was changed to precision machinery last year. The revised project proposal submitted for EIA review still plans to discharge wastewater into the new Jhuoshui River, invoking concern from local farmers, who urged the park to recycle all of its wastewater.
Before the EIA general assembly started the review of the project yesterday, protesters rallied in front of the building, holding banners that read: “CTSP’s fourth-phase expansion project is polluting the Jhuoshui River with toxic wastewater,” “Reject the project,” “Complete wastewater recycle,” “Sacrificing environment for industrial adjustment” and other hand-held signs in front of the EPA.
Changhua Environmental Protection Union secretary-general Shih Yueh-ying (施月英) said the pipes that are to discharge wastewater near the Tzichiang Bridge (自強大橋) were exactly where land subsidence is at a critical level, which would likely cause the pipes to burst and contaminate nearby farms.
The farmers also expressed concern that the wastewater discharged into the river would contaminate their crops and fish farms or the groundwater, and asked the companies to guarantee that 100 percent wastewater would be recycled.
Participating in the EIA meeting was Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), who said that environmental regulations should not be loosened for companies, thereby sacrificing the farmers and the environment.
DPP Legislator Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) said that “the Jhuoshui River is the mother river of Taiwan” and should not be harmed by wastewater from the park.
Conflicts also arose between local governmental officials, as Changhua County Deputy Commissioner Patrick Lin (林田富) expressed the need for a science park to counter the outflow of young people from the county.
He said that the park’s wastewater would not harm local residents.
However, Yunlin County Deputy Commissioner Shih Keh-he (施克和) expressed concern that during dry seasons, wastewater would not be adequately diluted in the river.
The meeting continued until about 5pm. The EIA general assembly approved the revised proposal, as well as eight revised items that differ from the previous assessment.
After the meeting, several civic groups said they were disappointed about the EIA’s conclusion.
At the National Science Council (NSC), council Deputy Director-General Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) said he was glad the EIA process had finally come to an end and that the companies are likely to be more confident in applying to establish plants in the park.
He said that if I-Ming Sanitary Materials Co — the only company that has finished building its plant in the park — could fulfill the requirements regarding the recycling of its wastewater and was approved by the park administration, the company could begin operations this year.
However, the basic infrastructure of the park might not be completed for another two to three years, Hochen said, adding that many companies have already expressed interest in building plants in the park.
Responding to how the council would deal with opposing voices, Hochen said: “Communication is a never ending thing. The council will continue to communicate with the people with concerns.”
“However, from my experience of EIA meetings, I believe that many of these people are not fully informed and become emotional when expressing their feelings, instead of discussing facts rationally.”
A workforce will also be established to monitor whether the park’s operations conform to the EIA, with one-third of the members to come a from third party, one-third from the park administration and one-third from local residents, he added.