Lawmakers and environmental groups yesterday called for more stringent monitoring and control of industrial hazardous waste at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, saying that pollution has affected Taiwan’s food safety and people’s health.
The call came in the wake of the arrest and detention of three people in southern Taiwan who allegedly ran an industrial hazardous waste treatment operation, but were instead illegally dumping the waste in landfills or at unregulated sites.
“The illegal dumping has been a recurring problem, plaguing many municipalities and counties for many years, but government agencies do not have a good handle on the problem,” New Power Party Legislator Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
She demanded that agencies be proactive in inspecting and verify data from companies, the quantities of the hazardous wastes, where they came from and where they end up.
She also called for stricter inspections and setting up mechanisms to manage the problem.
Last year, there were 19.84 million tonnes of industrial waste in Taiwan, environmental groups said, citing results of an investigation.
That did not include “construction surplus of sand and gravel materials” and soil already deemed polluted, they said.
A report also indicated that 84 percent of industrial hazardous waste was only superficially treated and has turned up relabeled as a different product, they added.
Much of these materials were recycled and have found their way into farmlands, aquaculture ponds and other sites, which through years of accumulation have polluted the soil and water, endangering Taiwan’s food safety and public health, Chen said.
In the past five years, 869 cases of illegal dumping were uncovered by the Environmental Protection Administration, about one case per every 2.1 days, Chen said.
“In reality, there are much more that have not been discovered, and have not yet been investigated. The actual number and amount of waste are much, much more than those that have been reported,” Chen said.
Only 8 percent of landfill sites have been treated and cleaned, but 92 percent of them are still piled up with no follow-up work or cleaning, she added.
It is urgent to amend the laws, as local governments often cannot locate the source of the waste when uncovering illegal dumping sites, and are unable to issue fines, which often results in the waste remaining in place, Taiwan Watch Institute secretary-general Herlin Hsieh (謝和霖) said.
“Even in cases when the people responsible were found, the local authorities usually request the site be cleaned within a deadline, and only when this is not met, can they apply to seize property assets to offset the cleanup costs, but most of the time, those responsible had by then transferred their assets elsewhere, and local governmental agencies cannot go in to clean up, as they lack the budget,” Hsieh said.
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