Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-14 02:49 PM
The nation’s top chip tester and packager stands accused of discharging wastewater polluted with nickel and other heavy metals into Kaohsiung’s Houjing Creek, where the pollution could have found its way into rice fields and farmland.
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office has been moving up the executive ladder at ASE, first questioning subcontractors before summoning the head of the K7 plant, Su Ping-shuo, on Friday. A request by prosecutors to keep him detained after questioning was approved early Saturday morning. Statements by the factory chief reportedly conflicted with explanations given by other interviewees, so prosecutors feared there was a possibility he might destroy evidence or collude with other suspects.
Since prosecutors were moving up ASE’s hierarchical structure, reports Saturday did not exclude the possibility that the company’s chairman, Jason Chang, and other top managers would soon be summoned for questioning.
The company initially argued that a one-off mishap was responsible for a discharge of toxic material, but the investigation was turning to recent allegations that it regularly released waste through hidden pipelines leading directly into the sea. Similar schemes were also discovered at unrelated factories in Changhua County this week. Kaohsiung’s Environmental Protection Bureau arrived at the conclusion that secret pipelines existed at ASE because records of wastewater quantities did not match.
Lin arrived at the prosecutors’ office around noon in the company of an attorney, reports said. He was likely to be faced with questions about how much senior management at ASE knew about potentially illegal practices in Kaohsiung. Media reports said he might be listed as a defendant later Saturday if he was found to have known about the problem.
The EPB on Saturday started to send inspectors into the K7 plant to observe the treatment of the wastewater all day long. The city government fined ASE NT$600,000 (US$20,000) and ordered the factory to suspend operations, but the order only takes effect after up to ten days of investigations, reports said.
For five days beginning Saturday, teams of two EPB inspectors would stay at the plant to work eight-hour shifts, making sure that the process of wastewater discharge was being monitored 24 hours a day, officials said.
The EPB said it needed to receive an official explanation from ASE before it could make the suspension of production at the plant effective.
The K7 factory employs 5,000 workers at Kaohsiung’s Nanci industrial district, but ASE still has several other plants in the area. Inspectors have reportedly taken soil samples in the area and taken a close look at the other factories to look for similar illegal practices.
Politicians have called on the authorities to crack down and to take back tax breaks and other types of subsidies ASE enjoyed over the years.
Tests made by agricultural inspectors on farmland close to the Houjing Creek found no especially high levels of toxicity, according to results announced Saturday.
In Changhua, where five electroplating factories unrelated to ASE were found to have discharged waste through secret pipelines, 327 hectares of farmland were believed to have been affected by heavy metals.
The Changhua District Prosecutors Office accused the Council of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Agency of dragging its feet on testing, leading COA Minister Chen Bao-ji to complain about his department’s bureaucratic attitudes.