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Soil, groundwater at 16 Taiwanese factories highly 'toxic'

TAIPEI--High levels of chemical pollutants that may be carcinogens were detected in the soil and underground water at 16 of 84 factories inspected nationwide in an ongoing program, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

In one extreme case, 524 mg/L of dichloromethane, or 10,480 times the permitted amount, was found in the underground water at Taoyuan County-based pharmaceutical Sci Pharmtech Inc., said Tsai Hung-teh, executive secretary of the EPA's Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Fund Management Board.

The chlorinated organic solvent is listed as a Class 2B carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which means it is possible carcinogenic, Tsai explained. Six other companies also had concentrations of chlorinated solvents that were 20 times higher than permitted under the government's groundwater pollution control standards.

Tainan-based Standard Chem. and Pharm. Co.'s underground water contained vinyl chloride levels 454.5 times higher than the norm at 9.09 mg/L.

The inspection was the third phase of an ongoing project to inspect by 2016 a total of 440 factories that use and possibly discharge high levels of chlorinated solvents. Over 160 factories had been inspected in the first two phases of the program. Tsai said companies with high levels of pollutants are asked by the administration to implement preventive measures and reduce the spread of pollution and risks involved.

The most recent investigation also found that a well next to hardware manufacturer Jiingi Metal Industrial Co. in Changhua County contained pollutants that exceeded standards.

But Tsai said the pollutants had not spread to agricultural land or fish products in the area.

Of the 16 factories that contained high levels of chlorinated solvents in their groundwater and soil, six were in Taoyuan County, three were in Changhua County and three were in Kaohsiung.

Taoyuan County's Environmental Protection Bureau said it received inspection results from the EPA in May and has asked the offending factories to take preventive measures and trace the source of pollution to prevent a further spread of the toxins.

The bureau did not find any leaks at the Taoyuan companies, but it did discover that two companies had violated the Water Pollution Control Act and that the Jhungli factory of bearings manufacturer Tungpei Industrial Co. had violated the Waste Disposal Act.

The bureau also said it would continue to follow up and supervise the six companies and has asked people who obtain groundwater from near the factories not to use it as drinking water.

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