Regarding the status of soil and groundwater pollution remediation in Taiwan, a total of 8,794 polluted sites have been announced and listed on the EPA’s control list, and among them 80% have been improved. Among the 1,771 sites that are still on the list, 83% are farmlands and the rest are industrial sites. The majority of the industrial sites are factories and gas stations. The farmlands that are still listed are mostly located in Taoyuan City and Changhua County, and the EPA estimates that all listed farmlands will be fully improved by the end of 2021.
Environmental protection has been pursued for over two decades in Taiwan. Economic development has led to worsening pollution and more strain on the environment. With insufficient waste treatment and disposal facilities, random waste dumping has caused soil and groundwater pollution that society needs to tackle urgently.
I. Groundwater pollution control strategies
Groundwater pollution control strategies include promoting the legislation of groundwater pollution regulations, continuing to monitor sites currently undergoing remediation, and encouraging new gas station operators to install groundwater pollution prevention facilities and conduct self-monitoring. The EPA is also subsidizing city and county governments based on the approved plans to set up groundwater monitoring stations, in order to get a basic understanding of regional groundwater background water quality.
Based on the National Environment Protection Plan (國家環境保護計畫), groundwater protection tasks aim to complete the groundwater protection system and strengthen water quality monitoring and remediation. Groundwater pollution prevention and management tasks, such as groundwater background data monitoring and taking measures that prevent enterprises from polluting groundwater, are implemented in accordance with the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防制法).
The Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act (土壤與地下水污染整治法) mainly regulates the remediation and control of groundwater pollution areas. It includes groundwater quality monitoring, investigation, pollution control scope setting, and remediation work. With both the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act and the Water Pollution Control Act, the groundwater protection system can be further refined, and groundwater quality monitoring and pollution remediation tasks can be enhanced.
1. Current status of listed pollution sites
Based on the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act, a total of 8,794 sites had been listed for control by 30 September 2020. To date, 7,023 sites (80%) have been improved and delisted, leaving only 1,771 sites (20%) on the list. Among the sites that are still listed, 1,365 sites (77%) are farmlands and 406 sites (23%) are industrial sites. The majority of the industrial sites that are still listed are factories and gas stations.
2. Pollution site remediation and management
The assessment conducted on all 800,000 hectares of farmland in Taiwan in 2010 showed 21,000 hectares with high heavy metal pollution potential. A total of 1,185 hectares of farmland had been listed for control by 30 September 2020, of which 977 hectares have been improved and delisted. The rest 208 hectares that are still listed are mainly located in Taoyuan City and Changhua County, and are expected to be fully improved by the end of 2021.
(2) Industrial pollution sites
1,009 industrial pollution sites, covering 2,088 hectares in total, have been improved and taken off the control list. For the 406 sites (1,381 hectares) that are still listed, individual plans for improvement, control, or remediation based on pollution types have been submitted. Their improvement and delisting will be implemented according to the approved plans.
3. Control measures
(1) Color signal control system for industrial parks
To enhance regional control of soil and groundwater quality, competent authorities are responsible to regularly monitor pollution trends within their jurisdictions under set regulations. As of August 2020, the monitoring rate reached 99.5% in all of the 160 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 results showed a red light at five sites, orange at 13 sites, yellow at 25 sites, and green at 117 sites. The percentage of industrial parks with green lights has increased from 69% in 2017 to 74% in 2020, and that of parks with red, orange, and yellow lights combined has decreased from 31% to 26% after years of promoting improvements. The EPA will continue to supervise industrial parks to strengthen pollution prevention and control.
(2) Storage facility control
To prevent above-ground storage tanks from causing soil and groundwater pollution, the EPA added and amended relevant regulations to integrate controls on above-ground and underground storage tanks. This was to enhance the effectiveness of pollution prevention facilities and leakage monitoring to firmly implement pollution prevention tasks.
(3) Groundwater quality control
A total of 232 samples were taken from regional monitoring wells from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2020, and the testing results that met the Groundwater Pollution Monitoring Standards (地下水污染監測標準) (Category 2) was 93.1% on average as of the third quarter 2020.
(4) Sediment quality control
The first round of sediment quality testing, conducted on 473 sites that include 83 sites at rivers, 91 sites at lakes and reservoirs, and 299 sites at irrigation ditches, was completed between January 2014 and December 2019. The testing result submissions rate reached 100%. The EPA will keep supervising the second round of testing and report submission.
In 2013, the EPA formulated regulations stipulating that the industry competent authority of each water body should regularly inspect the sediment quality of the water body at least once every five years. As of the end of August 2020, 565 water body sediment quality declarations had been completed, which met the target of implementing 500 national sediment quality inspections in 2020 as prescribed in the Taiwan Sustainable Development Goal Corresponding Indicators. The EPA will continue to supervise the sediment inspections and declarations.
Based on the EPA’s announced policies for 2021, the EPA will continue to implement the following measures to promote soil sustainability: expediting restoration of soil and groundwater pollution sites, ensure sustainable use of the Soil Pollution Fund, actively carry out remediation and protection work on polluted soil and groundwater, and keep track of pollutants and sediment quality.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 23 (10)