Speeding up soil pollution remediation and developing relevant technology is a vital part of the EPA’s “A Sustainable Earth” policy. Under the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act, the policy consists of two major parts: “strengthening preventive control and conducting investigations of high pollution potential” and “speeding up remediation of pollution sites and enhancing remediation technology”. As tasks under the policy are gradually implemented, soil and groundwater pollution sites can be cleaned up and taken off the control list, leading to improvement of overall environmental quality.
Strengthening preventive control and conducting investigations of high pollution potential
(1) Preventive control measures
Land owners and enterprises are supervised and urged to take the soil quality of the land they use seriously as well as clear up both pre- and post-operation responsibilities. In accordance with the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act, announced enterprises are required to report soil pollution assessment investigations and testing data before land transfer, as well as establishing, changing, and closing business. There were a total of 7,921 voluntary reporting cases between 2005 and 31 July 2019. In the future, current relevant regulations will undergo evaluations on a rolling basis in order to increase the effects of voluntary controls.
To enhance regional control of soil and groundwater quality, competent authorities are responsible to regularly monitor pollution trends within their jurisdictions under the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act. From 2011 to 31 August 2019, the monitoring rate reached 98.7% in all of the 158 designated industrial parks in Taiwan. A color signal control system is in place in industrial parks based on current testing status and control results. The latest result (in August 2019) showed red in five sites, orange in 13 sites, yellow in 24 sites, and green in 116 sites. The EPA will continue to promote the color signal control system, enhance warning and monitoring efficiency in industrial parks, speed up pollution improvement, strengthen systematic support services for decision making and analysis, and supervise all units to actively take up various projects.
Every year, the EPA holds two to three training seminars on sediment quality testing and reporting as well as sediment reporting coordination meetings so as to supervise and help competent authorities conduct testing and reporting tasks. The purpose is to strengthen control of water body sediment quality, disclose testing data, and set up an Environmental Resource Open Data Platform for the public to look up testing data. It also assists competent authorities and agencies in charge of water body control to complete various reporting operations.
Between January 2014 to 31 August 2019, authorities of 473 sites, including 83 rivers, 91 lakes and reservoirs and 299 irrigation ditches have submitted sediment investigation and sampling plans for reference. The plan submission rate reached 100%. Among them, 90.7% have completed the inspections and submitted the reports for references.
For the 453 regional groundwater quality monitoring wells, monitoring is conducted regularly in order to get a grip of groundwater quality background in Taiwan. In 2018, a total of 750 samples were taken from monitoring wells and the testing results that met the Groundwater Pollution Monitoring Standards (Category 2) was 92.3% on average.
(2) Investigation of high-polluting potential
To enhance control of abandoned factories, the EPA has inspected and rated 504 enterprises as sites with high-polluting potential. Inspection was done on 359 of these enterprises between 2004 and August 2019, 157 of which were confirmed with pollution, or a detection rate of 44%. Currently, 98 enterprises have been removed from the regulatory list. The investigation of the rest 145 enterprises is expected to complete in two years.
Furthermore, the EPA surveyed 943 enterprises and inspected 198 enterprises from 2008 to August 2019 for plants with high-polluting potential that are still in operation. The detection rate reached 62% as 122 of them were found to be polluted. To date, 29 enterprises are off the regulatory list. Onsite inspection at another 194 plants will continue and is expected to finish in three years.
B. Underground storage tank systems
To prevent underground storage tank systems from leakage, enterprises are required by law to self-monitor them on a regular basis before reporting to the local environmental agency. Targeting abnormalities in these reports, the EPA has continued inspection and pollution investigations in order to prevent pollution. Inspections have been conducted since 2001 with a total of 3,524 station-times, leading to confirmation of pollution in 289 stations. A total of 224 stations have been removed from the regulatory list so far, and 65 stations on the list are currently undergoing remediation implemented by their respective enterprises.
Speeding up pollution-site remediation and enhancing remediation technology
(1) Promoting remediation on polluted sites
The EPA has set up site management plans, a mechanism to improve sites where remediation has halted, and a control system to oversee the entire operation. The aim is to hasten improvement of sites with soil and groundwater pollution and effectively increase remediation progress by keeping an eye closely on the status of site remediation. The use of the Soil Pollution Fund is maximized through taking inventory of polluted sites, keeping track of investigation information so as site history and current pollution status, evaluating new evidence, and assessing the needs for additional investigation.
As of 31 July 2019, a total of 8,680 sites had been put under control. As many as 5,724 sites had been removed from the regulatory list, leaving 2,956 sites that are currently under control, 2,515 of which are farmlands (374 hectares) and 441 sites of enterprises.
(2) Enhancing remediation technology
A. Developing and testing new technology
Technologies suitable for pollution investigation and remediation in Taiwan have been developed and tested based on the features and remediation needs of polluted sites. It includes phyto-sensors, high-resolution site investigation technology, bio-remediation, and onsite smoldering remediation. The technologies developed are being tested on seven sites.
B. Promoting development and application of local technology
(i) Since 2010, the EPA has been promoting the 2019 Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Funds-subsidized Research and Pilot Study Program. Research centers in universities in Taiwan (both national and private) as well as public and private research facilities are encouraged to investigate soil and groundwater and develop remediation and rehabilitation technology. The program also helps link remediation technology with those in need of it in order to speed up removal of polluted sites from the regulatory list. Up to December 2018, major results included 205 projects subsidized with NT$220 million, 129 research manuscripts submitted to international journals, 23 patents, five technology transfers, 43 instances of technology applied to polluted sites, and more than 800 soil and groundwater professionals trained.
(ii) In 2019, the EPA has kept on promoting the research and pilot study program, accepting applications between 31 August and 26 September 2018. Research units were welcomed to submit applications to develop technologies suitable for domestic needs. A two-stage review was carried out from October to December 2018. Twenty-eight applications were approved, which included 18 research projects and ten pilot study projects. The total subsidies amounted to NT$30 million.
(iii) For commercialized technology with great potential developed under the research and pilot study project above, the EPA has established a soil and groundwater pollution technology matching mechanism. A conference with 360 attendees was held in June 2019 to promote soil and groundwater remediation results and match available technologies to those in need of them. It aimed to strengthen local technical capacity, link up industries and academia, and enhance the potential for application of technology.
C. Introduction of advanced technology and related training
In 2018, Dr. James Landmeyer of the US Geological Survey and Dr. Song Jin of the University of Wyoming were invited to speak at seminars and staff training programs titled “Green Investigation Technology” and “Electrokinetic Remediation Technology”. A total of 413 people attended 13 training sessions. Soil and groundwater investigation and remediation technology in Taiwan were greatly enhanced through such training courses and case sharing.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 22 (9)