Taiwan protesters call for halt to Formosa Plastics naphtha cracker after new fire
Economics Minister demands thorough review, EPA fines company
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2010-07-26 07:11 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Formosa Plastics Group will have to present a detailed report about what caused the second fire in a month at its sixth naphtha cracker plant in Yunlin County, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said Monday.

The complex near the coastal town of Mailiao is already controversial over its alleged damage to the environment and reported high instances of cancer among nearby residents.

The latest blaze erupted Sunday evening at the No.2 unit inside the complex, and wasn’t brought under control until Monday morning, though black smoke was still rising into the sky for many hours afterward. The fire might have been caused by a leak, though a full investigation will be necessary. The company announced later it estimated the damage at NT$500 million (US$15.5 million).

Local resident action groups and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party demanded a halt to production at the damaged unit should be expanded to cover the whole complex. They also wanted new construction plans to be dropped as well as a thorough review of the fire fighting precautions at major industrial plants.

Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang told reporters he wanted the Formosa Plastics Group to do more to explain the problems at its complex.

“The Ministry of Economic Affairs absolutely wants the company to conduct a thorough inspection and report where things went wrong,” Shih told reporters.

The Yunlin County Fire Department and the Council of Labor Affairs would conduct inspections into the cause for the latest fire, Shih said. He added that no company wanted such an accident to happen, as it not only harmed local residents but also caused significant damage to the company itself.

The Environmental Protection Administration said no toxic substances had been released into the air during the fire, but because there had still been low-level pollution, Formosa Plastics Group would face a fine of NT$1 million (US$31,000), officials said.

An area of the complex hit by two fires on July 7 had stopped operating, the EPA said.

Green Party activists at the scene said they could not accept the EPA explanations, since the substances released into the air by the fire were likely to be transformed into acid rain.

Local fish growers told reporters that their water had turned black.

The DPP, including Yunlin County Magistrate Su Chih-fen and local legislator Liu Chien-kuo, demanded a health risk evaluation report from the company and a complete review of the fire fighting procedures coupled with a modernization of the equipment at the naphtha cracker.

Formosa Plastics spokesman Lin Keh-yen apologized to the public and said the company would bear complete responsibility for damage to local businesses.

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