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Kaohsiung orders ASE factory closed
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-20 05:22 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Kaohsiung ordered the K7 factory of Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. accused of discharging toxic wastewater to suspend operations Friday.

Management at the world’s top chip tester and packager claimed the pollution of the Houjing Creek with water containing nickel and other heavy metals was the result of an isolated accident, but the authorities said they found secret pipelines taking untreated waste to the sea.

The city’s Environmental Protection Bureau chief, Chen Chin-der, announced the long-expected decision Friday and said it would send out the suspension order before the end of the working day. The order had first been anticipated on December 9, but the company received a ten-day grace period during which it could explain its position.

Pollution by the K7 plant had occurred repeatedly with knowledge of ASE, Chen said, adding that the waste had not been treated sufficiently for it to be allowed to flow into the river. He also confirmed earlier accusations that the company had intentionally tried to dilute its waste with tap water when faced with inspections by the EPB.

When inspectors stayed at the factory from December 14 through 19 to observe proceedings 24 hours a day, they found that several machines in the wastewater treatment process were not working properly, Chen said.

As a result, it was necessary for the plant to suspend operations and fix its problems first, the city official told a news conference.

ASE also had a record of not notifying the authorities about problems and of not doing enough to repair faulty equipment, according to Chen. In 2011, the company was fined six times but failed to improve its operations, while after mishaps in February and on October 1, it had failed to inform the EPB immediately.

The levels of nickel found in the K7 wastewater amounted to 4.38 milligrams per liter, or 1,000 times the legal maximum, posing a threat to nearby rice fields and farmland, officials said.

ASE could apply to restart operations but only if it could submit improvements to the city for consideration, Chen said. The company was planning to file an emergency administrative appeal against the city’s decision, reports said.

The fate of the plant’s more than 5,000 employees was also addressed by the city government. They said the company would not be allowed to lay off staff or to use leave without pay, a tactic often used by employers during bad economic times. Wage cuts were also off limits, the city warned.

The future of the ASE factory also grew into the subject of a politically motivated war of words between the opposition Democratic Progressive Party-dominated Kaohsiung City Government and the Kuomintang-led central government. Nevertheless, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen said before Kaohsiung announced its decision that work at ASE should be suspended if secret pipelines or illegal waste discharges were found.

Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu said Friday morning that she would respect the conclusions of the professional evaluation made by the EPB.

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