TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Formosa Plastics could be forced to pay a fine of up to
NT$150 million (US$5 million) for a case of pollution in Kaohsiung County but
not closure of its factory, reports said Tuesday. Test results published by the
media on March 21 showed the presence near the factory in Jenwu of carcinogenic
chemicals such as vinyl-chloride monomers and hydrochlorofluorocarbons at levels
exceeding official health limits by up to 300,000 times (read MRCplast.com from march 31).
The Environmental Protection Administration was drawing up eight possible
scenarios for sanctions against the company which could end with the county
government levying a fine of between NT$38 million (US$1.2 million) and NT$150
million, according to the Chinese-language United Evening News.Environmental
groups welcomed the plans for a heavy fine, but also demanded the closure of the
Jenwu plant. The heavy fines showed the EPA’s determination, but since the
pollution at the factory was still at a manageable level, there was no need to
order its closure at present, EPA Minister Stephen Shen said. Any similar
incident in the future would lead to an order to halt work at the Jenwu factory,
Formosa Plastics first knew about the grave pollution
of underground water in December 2003, but never told the authorities, according
to Shen. The company didn’t take action against the problem until the EPA
inspected the plant last year and failed to clean up the toxic substances
already present in the soil, he said. The size of the fine was based on the cost
of the company’s negligence and of the actions it had failed to take, Shen said.
A commission of experts would still have to draw up an overall plan for
neutralizing the impact of the pollution and would base the final size of the
fine for Formosa Plastics on the cost of that plan, he said. The
longer the company took to solve the problem, the higher the fine would be,
according to Shen.
Because experts still had to confirm the precise nature of the pollution, the
EPA would not impose the fine directly but ask the Kaohsiung County Government
to do so, he added. In the first example of a heavy fine over environmental
pollution, the EPA imposed a direct fine of more than NT$100 million on the
Kuanyin Industrial Zone in Taoyuan County.