AIT rebuts charges of dust, noise at office construction site

The China Post news staff and CNA

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has received no complaints about noise and dust allegedly caused by the construction of its new office compound in Taipei’s Neihu District, a spokesman said yesterday.

Work on the new AIT office has been proceeding in accordance with local regulations, said AIT Taipei Office spokesman Mark Zimmer in an interview. His remarks were prompted by opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsueh Ling, who said earlier in the day that she has received petitions from Neihu residents about inconveniences caused by the construction. Contrary to earlier promises by the AIT, the site — once covered in lush vegetation — has become not much more than a muddy mess, Hsueh said.

Neihu residents have complained to her, saying that construction on the office has not adhered to any meaningful vegetative conservation standards. She further quoted Neihu residents as complaining that although the topsoil at the construction site has been covered by tarpaulin, muddy water and silt often flood the vicinity on rainy days. Hsueh said that comparing before and after satellite images of the construction site makes clear the severe loss of vegetation. “Neihu constituents have complained that hillside land preparation for the AIT office construction has caused heavy dust and noise in the area,” Hsueh said. Piles of clay dug out from hillside land have also caused safety concerns, Hsueh went on. “Worse yet, it seems to me that the completion date for the AIT construction project will be further deferred,” she added. Zimmer responded, however, that the AIT Taipei Office, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, has never received similar complaints from local residents.

He also said that the project has been progressing as scheduled and in accordance with Taiwan’s laws and regulations.

Under the AIT’s two-stage plan, the first phase focuses on building a flood pool and other facilities, with construction of office buildings to take place in the second stage. Zimmer said the US$216 million construction project is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The compound will use locally produced solar panels as a partial source of its electricity supply, according to AIT officials.

AIT Director Christopher J. Marut was earlier quoted by local reports as saying that the U.S. envoy’s new site will preserve most of the original vegetation, adding that a rainwater collection system will be part of the new building. The building will also have one of the largest solar energy panels in Taipei, generating some 300,000 kilowatt-hours, Marut said. The AIT is expected to begin operating out of the new site in summer 2015. According to an examination report conducted by the Taipei City Government’s Geotechnical Engineering Office (台北市工程處) last July, the construction site did not include protective measures for the mounds of earth around the perimeter of the site, nor to preserve vegetation; thus the office requested the AIT to improve its conservation of water and soil in order to manage heavy rain.