Formosa Plastics Group yesterday rejected an allegation that its naphtha cracker in Yunlin County’s Mailiao Township (麥寮) was behind a recent surge of PM2.5 pollutants in central Taiwan, laying the blame on wind and the burning of agricultural waste.
Levels of PM2.5 — airborne pollutants measuring less than 2.5 micrometers — in Nantou County, Taichung and Yunlin earlier this week reached “red levels,” at which point there is a greater risk of health problems for sensitive groups — those with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular diseases and senior citizens.
The PM2.5 reading in Yunlin’s Lunbei Township (崙背) on Tuesday was 79 micrograms per cubic meter, which was more than twice the national daily average of 35 micrograms per cubic meter, leading the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to issue a recommendation that lasted until yesterday for residents to avoid outdoor activities
A report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) on Wednesday quoted EPA Department of Environmental Monitoring and Information Management Director-General Tsai Hung-te (蔡鴻德) as saying: “The elevated PM2.5 levels in central Taiwan were caused by emissions from the Mailiao naphtha cracker and fugitive emissions from the Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪), as well as poor atmospheric diffusion in the area.”
Formosa Plastics said in a statement on Tuesday that the burning of harvest season agricultural waste in Yunlin’s Lunbei and Siluo (西螺) townships, coupled with low wind speeds and inconsistent wind direction due to the transition between seasons, resulted in the buildup of pollutants and hazy conditions.
Annual PM2.5 levels recorded at the air pollution observation station in Lunbei averaged between 8 micrograms per cubic meter and 12 micrograms per cubic meter, but the reading soared to more than 70 micrograms per cubic meter once the burning of agricultural waste began this month, the company said.
The company said that nationwide PM2.5 levels were elevated, and that even an observation station in Taipei’s Yangmingshan National Park recorded excessive PM2.5 levels, suggesting that climate was a principal factor and that the naptha cracker was not a major contributor to air pollution.
Formosa Plastics said that the facility’s emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds were consistent with environmental standards, and that there has been no significant change in the volume of the plant’s emissions, despite the dramatic increase in the PM2.5 readings at the Lunbei station.
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