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Taiwan Steel Union’s ash treatment plan draws fire

SHOO FLY:The firm is bidding to expand a treatment facility in Changhua so it can process more toxic ash, but specialists fear that will exacerbate local pollution

Environmentalists yesterday voiced concern about the potential for heavy metal pollution if Taiwan Steel Union Co’s proposal to increase the volume of furnace dust that its treatment facility handles is approved by the Environmental Protection Administration.

They aired their concerns at a meeting of specialists at the administration’s Taipei office to review the company’s bid to increase the capacity of its treatment plant in Changhua County from 189,000 to 198,900 tonnes of furnace dust, with an additional 530 tonnes of fly ash from the city’s waste incinerators to be processed there per year.

Taiwan Water Conservation Alliance spokesperson Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) said the expansion of the treatment facility in Changhua Coastal Industrial Park would likely add to the heavy metal contamination already afflicting groundwater nearby, which is alarming since more than 80 percent of the area’s drinking water comes from the ground.

Furthermore, fly ash contains dioxins and other hazardous heavy metals, so processing Taipei’s fly ash would pose a risk as well, espcially since the less toxic water-washed fly ash accounts for just 10 percent of the total fly ash generated there, Chen said.

All these extra hazards would come on top of the exorbitant levels of lead in wastewater emitted by Taiwan Steel Union’s facility in the dry season, which are five times higher than the legal standard.

The alliance said that groundwater from a well near the industrial park had been found to contain the heavy metal arsenic several times over the years, the concentration of which has been as much as seven times the allowed amount.

Given the poor environmental conditions in the area, it would be unfair to expand the facility to accept more toxic fly ash from Taipei, the group said, urging that health risk evaluations be conducted to ensure that locals have safe water.

The meeting concluded that Taiwan Steel Union should submit a fly ash water washing plan and a report addressing the specialists’ concerns before its proposal can be put to a final decision.

Source – The Taipei Times

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