Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-13 02:55 PM
The country’s top chip tester and packager has been under fire for allegedly releasing wastewater containing nickel and other heavy metals from its K7 factory in Kaohsiung into the Houjing Creek, which is used for the irrigation of nearby rice fields and other farmland. ASE claims the pollution happened by accident, but local authorities accuse the company of having built secret pipelines to hide the practice.
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office requested a court to approve the detention of K7 top manager Su Ping-shuo Friday evening, reports said. Wastewater department chief Tsai Chi-hsun was going to be freed on bail of NT$1 million (US$33,700) while a third official being questioned was released, reports said.
Prosecutors first summoned eight ASE employees for questioning Thursday evening. After interviews lasting eight hours in all, the prosecutors charged three of the men with discharging toxic materials and set bail at NT$700,000 (US$23,600) for one man and NT$500,000 (US$16,800) each for the two others.
An employee of the central government’s Environmental Protection Administration reportedly showed up around midnight to explain procedures involving the treatment of wastewater.
ASE had sent a considerable team of attorneys, reports said, while the company also paid the bail for its three employees.
Later Friday morning, Kaohsiung prosecutors summoned three managers from the electronics giant, including Su and Tsai. The list of interviewees was reportedly drawn up after talks with the city’s Environmental Protection Bureau, which first found out about the pollution.
The EPB fined ASE NT$600,000 (US$20,000), though the sum was widely criticized as too low for such a major company.
Two ASE plants in Kaohsiung, K7 and K11, reportedly installed pipelines allowing wastewater to be directly pumped into the sea without having applied for licenses from the authorities. The practice was discovered when a comparison of the amounts of discharged wastewater brought discrepancies to light.
A coalition of environmentalists, farmers, workers and local residents protested at the Houjing Creek Friday and demanded the immediate suspension of work at the ASE plant. They also wanted the company to take responsibility for restoring the river area to its original condition. A labor group said the company should still be responsible for paying its staff even if the plant faced suspension as punishment for the pollution.
As the result of a separate investigation in Changhua County, eight managers and employees at several electroplating factories were detained Friday, while another one was released on bail. The county government said it was planning to freeze the assets of five businesses.
The companies reportedly jointly operated a 5-kilometer-long hidden pipeline which released untreated toxic waste into water used for irrigation of farmland. Tests showed that the wastewater contained eight substances, some of them rated extremely toxic, reports said. At least 100 hectares of farmland were affected by the waste.
Agricultural inspectors were still conducting tests to determine whether the produce on the land had been affected. If it was, it would have to be destroyed, reports said.
Ten electroplating factories on the border between Changhua City and Meichen were also ordered to stop work today. At least 1,800 hectares of rice fields and other farmland were affected by the pollution, according to the investigation.
The companies would receive seven days to appeal the suspensions while inspectors further researches the source and nature of the pollution, reports said.