Groups demand probe into landfills at Wushantou dam

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Environmental protection organizations have demanded a thorough examination of the landfills located near the Wushantou Reservoir in Tainan County to ensure the quality of water in the major water dam in southern Taiwan. The groups organized an association eight years ago to oppose the construction of the landfills as well as monitor the construction work and water quality. The construction work is near completion and builders of the two huge landfills will be able to start operations soon after they get the official permits. But the groups pointed out that certain metal, chemical and mineral elements in the water of wells under examination have exceeded the allowable limits. They also found recently the exposure of coal ashes adjacent to the landfills after Typhoon Fanapi heavily damaged farms in the east and southern regions in Taiwan last month. Leaders of the organization want government agencies to dig the field to determine how much coal ashes were used in the construction procedure or dumped there even before the landfills are allowed for commercial operations. Shen Shih-hong, chief of the Cabinet-level Environmental Protection Administration said the use of coal ashes as part of the building materials at the landfills is illegal because construction firms did not include the ashes in its building plan and apply for permits. But the EPA and the Environmental Protection Department at the local county government will conduct an independent inspection and evaluation to determine whether the coal ashes will cause pollution or how extensive the pollution would be, he said. Results of the test can be made public in one month’s time, he added. The Tainan County Government gave approval to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for construction of the Yongyang and Nanshenglong landfills for industrial wastes in Dongshan Township near Wushantou (Black Mountain Top) Reservoir in 2001.

More than 900 farmers and environmentalist groups criticized the project, fearing that the clean water source of the dam will be polluted. The landfills will affect drinking water for up to one million people as well as irrigation water for farm use in Tainan area, they said. They also questioned the safety issue concerning the construction of the landfills related to geological structure and fault lines underground. EPA officials said eight meetings on the issues were held by experts and it was confirmed by experts that a fragmented fault line with a width of 11 meters passed near the Yongyang landfill. The environmentalist groups has also brought up the issues of possible pollution of underground water that would threaten the safety of agricultural products produced in the Chianan (Chiayi-Tainan) Plain in southwestern Taiwan. The dirty and toxic water will infiltrate through the stratum or shattered zone and flow into the reservoir once tons of industrial wastes and other garbage are dumped into the landfills, they said.

Shen, the EPA chief, said a separate task force of experts will be organized to focus on the water quality issue to allay the residents’ concern.