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Prosecutor visits ASE over pollution scandal
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-11 03:59 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Prosecutors visited top chip tester and packager Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc.’s K7 factory in Kaohsiung Wednesday to seize documents after the company was fined for discharging toxic wastewater.

The city’s Environmental Protection Bureau fined the factory NT$600,000 (US$20,000) and ordered it to suspend operations, though that would only become valid when the company officially received the order. ASE managers said the release of water containing high levels of nickel and other heavy metals was accidental and would not happen again. The company was accused of having tried to fool inspectors by diluting wastewater with tap water for tests meant to determine toxicity levels.

Kaohsiung prosecutor Wu Ming-chun was reportedly kept waiting for more than ten minutes at the ASE entrance Wednesday afternoon while the company called in an attorney. He reportedly came to inspect documents about water treatment and discharge by the plant.

The action was the result of separate complaints filed by the Kaohsiung EPB and by Democratic Progressive Party members of the city council. The councilors also said that ASE should pay compensation for the NT$3.7 billion (US$125 million) works on the Houjing creek, which is used to irrigate almost 1,000 hectares of farmland.

The company also faced calls for the abolition of subsidies and privileges it had received from the government.

Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch reportedly said that the government would help ASE solve its environmental problems, as a long-term suspension of production at the plant might impact Taiwan’s economy. The company might see its orders decline which would have negative results for the economy over all, he reportedly said.

The K7 factory discharges about 5,000 tons of wastewater daily, the ninth largest volume recorded in Kaohsiung. Tests reportedly found acidity levels in water inside the plant as high as in the wastewater outside, meaning the water had not been treated before being discharged.

ASE management said at a news conference Tuesday that employees had been disciplined for failing to notify the EPB about a leak of hydrochlorid acid on October 1 thought to have caused the upsurge in nickel and heavy-metal levels.

The case attracted comparisons with the adulteration of olive oil with banned coloring agents and low-quality imported edible oils by Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co., Ltd. and other leading food companies. ASE had also been responsible for poisoning Taiwanese consumers and harming farmers and consumers, critics said.

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