The Taiwan Water Preservation Union yesterday demanded that action be taken after it said Formosa Petrochemical’s naphtha cracker in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) had emitted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 90 times higher than the legal limit.
The union made the statement at a protest at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), which is scheduled to convene a second meeting to assess health risks caused by air pollution from the plant.
Union spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒樺) said the law limits emission of VOCs to 4,302 tonnes per year, but their statistics showed that emissions had reached more 390,000 tonnes.
Chen said the health risk assessment report presented by the plant had underestimated VOC emissions in several categories. The emission of benzene, which can cause cancer, exceeded 20,000 tonnes.
Some residents of Yunlin County say that there has been an increase in the number of patients suffering from leukemia and other types of cancer ever since the construction of the first coal-powered plant in Yunlin in 1997.
The EPA said the Yunlin County Government had previously ordered the plant and related facilities to halt operations because of pollution released in a number of incidents.
“Since the order to stop operations was given by the county government, the union should present their evidence to the county government so that they can determine if and when operations can resume,” the EPA said.
“We ask the union to be clear where their battlefield should be,” it said.
Meanwhile, members of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) committee reviewing a health risk assessment ruled that they would hold a meeting with experts to clarify how to calculate VOC emissions.
The ruling said that the meeting would be attended by EIA members, specialists recommended by Formosa Petrochemical and experts representing environmental groups.
They would review the plant’s VOC emissions between 2009 and 2011 and decide when a third review meeting on the health risk assessment should be held after they reach a consensus on a valid method to calculate VOC emissions.
A number of fires at the plant since 2011 have triggered concerns over the facility’s safety record and the amount of pollution that it generates.
Additional reporting by staff writer