A government project to clean up Erjen River (二仁溪) in the south has yielded positive results, with pollution levels sharply down at the river running through Greater Kaohsiung and Greater Tainan, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.
Hsu Yung-hsing (許永興), director-general of the Department of Water Quality Protection, said that pollution, which ran the entire length of the river in 2003, had dropped to 32.4 percent of its area as of last year, proving that preliminary measures taken to clean it up were effective.
Erjen had long been regarded as one of the most hazardous rivers in the country because of the amount of industrial waste in it.
Photo: Huang Po-lang, Taipei Times
Now, however, fish had started to reappear in the river, which Hsu said was a good indicator of the improvement in water quality and wetland restoration along the river.
Inspection reports carried out this year also showed that the amount of lead found in the water had also decreased to a level considered safe, he said.
Before the treatment of the river began in 2003, the river was contaminated with heavy metals, such as lead and copper, at levels well above acceptable standards.
The heavy pollution was mainly the result of the dumping of solid toxic metal waste, ashes from burning waste metal and industrial sewage from smelting factories along the river. Hog farms, household sewage and other factories along the river also contributed to the severe pollution.
Wei Wen-Yi (魏文宜), a senior executive officer at department, said that integrated work and cooperation between various central and local government agencies to clean up the river is scheduled to be completed by 2013.
A budget of NT$10.8 billion (US$376 million) has been allocated for the cleanup, and NT$2.2 billion has been used since 2008 to remove toxic waste metal dumped along the river.
One of the key points of the river remediation project is to establish a sewage treatment system to deal with 120,000 tonnes of household wastewater, Wei said, adding that the sewage system design contract had already been signed by the Construction and Planning Agency and was scheduled for completion in 2014.
The Water Resources Agency is constructing a riverbank to prevent flood disasters during rainy season and is scheduled for completion in 2013.
The Council of Agriculture is also talking to pig farmers about waste disposal. Hsu said pig toilets could be designed to reduce pollution, and pig manure could be turned into compost or biofuel.
Aside from government efforts, 29 patrol teams organized by civic groups have helped safeguard the river over the years, Hsu said.
He said the scouts had been very helpful in reporting illegal conduct such as the discharging of industrial wastewater.
The EPA will invite central and local government officials, as well as civic groups, to visit and see the preliminary results of the river treatment project on Thursday.
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