Activists protest Mailiao cracker expansion

VOC::Formosa Petrochemical needs to step up its improvement plans as studies show a spike in the cancer incidence rate since the cracker began operating, activists said

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Sep 05, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan Water Resources Conservation Alliance members yesterday protested at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), saying that the volatile organic compounds (VOC) reduction plan for Formosa Petrochemical Corp’s naphtha cracker was inadequate and that the plant should be shut down until substantial improvements are made.

The protest took place ahead of an environmental impact assessment specialist meeting to review the company’s strategies for controlling VOC leaks at the fourth phase expansion project of the cracker in Mailiao Township (麥寮), Yunlin County.

Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said an epidemiological survey report by Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene, showed that pollutants — including propane, butane, ethene and propylene — were found in Dacheng Township (大城), Changhua County, and Taisi Township (台西) in Yunlin as well as Mailiao.

She said the crude cancer incidence rate within 10km of the cracker complex between 2008 and 2010 was 4.07 times the rate between 1999 and 2001, and that the rate in Taisi and Mailiao were higher than other parts of the county.

There are nearly 2,000 storage tanks and 40 elevated flares in the area, she said, but the company has only mentioned making improvements to 145 tanks (less than 10 percent) and 27 flares. Without clear information about which pollutants from what facilities will be reduced, it is hard to determine whether the company’s VOC reduction plan would be effective, she said.

Wu Li-hui (吳麗慧), of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union’s Changhua Office, said if the crude cancer incidence rate is now four times greater than before the cracker began operating, the government should not allow further expansion of the plant.

The government should consider halting operations at the cracker to allow for comprehensive improvements, Wu said.