Prevention and Management of Soil and Groundwater Pollution


With ongoing development and economic change, Taiwanese are facing more serious environmental loads. Insufficient waste treatment facilities and lack of final treatment plants contribute to soil and groundwater pollution derived from arbitrary disposal of hazardous industrial wastes. To solve this problem the government and the public urgently need to work together. This article summarizes the achievements of recent local groundwater pollution prevention work and ongoing major tasks in 2021.

In accordance with the National Environmental Protection Plan, groundwater remediation work aims to improve the groundwater protection system, and strengthen and improve groundwater quality monitoring. In accordance with the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act (土壤及地下水污染整治法), the main focus at present is to regulate the remediation and control of areas with contaminated groundwater. Recent outcomes of groundwater management are as follows:

  1. Recent Achievements
  1. Groundwater management measures

The EPA conducted regular groundwater quality monitoring by tracking background quality of groundwater at 455 local groundwater monitoring wells. To date in 2021, an average of 90.8% of the monitoring samples met Category 2 groundwater pollution monitoring standards. Items such as total hardness, total dissolved solids, chloride salts, nitrate nitrogen, sulfates, total organic carbon, total phenols, fluoride salts, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, zinc, mercury, nickel, and volatile organic compounds did not exceed monitoring standards. More than 85% of the monitoring samples met Category 2 groundwater pollution monitoring standards. However, qualification rates for some items were lower: ammonia nitrogen was 42.2%, iron was 74.4%, and manganese was 58.4%.

Prevention of groundwater pollution in industrial zones:

According to statistics for the period 2017 to the end of August 2020, 164 industrial zones nationwide have been compiled and declared. The latest industrial-zone “light signal” color-code classification included five red lights, 13 orange lights, 27 yellow lights, and 121 green lights. The proportion of “green light” industrial zones has gradually increased from 69% to 74%; in other words, industrial zones classified as red, orange or yellow light zones have improved year by year, with the total proportion falling from 31% to 26%.

  1. Farmland pollution prevention measures

The EPA established potential farmland pollution zones and planned preventive actions as follows:

(1) Medium and High Potential Zones

A. Information is being integrated on farmland pollution and potential pollution sources to provide feedback for early warning models and to strengthen early warning operations.

B. Soils are being intelligently monitored in pollution hotspots through IoT (the Internet of Things), monitoring real-time water quality; sample testing sediments in irrigation ditches; systematically monitoring places where pollution accumulates in irrigation committee districts; using scientific instruments such as resin capsules, water quality sensors, and automated water quality monitoring sampling and analysis instruments.

C. Developing tools to quantitatively measure irrigation water pollution on farmland so as to strengthen preventive measures.

(2) Zones with low pollution potential

A. To regularly monitor the soil, data is being integrated on irrigation water quality, ditch sediments, and heavy metal concentrations in farmland soil.

B. Intelligent water quality monitoring is being integrated to plan the boundaries of total quantity control zones.

(3) Zero potential pollution zones

A. Establishing farmland baseline data in terms of the environment and loads to aid the assessment of suitable use of the land.

B. Rolling inspection of the pollution potential, and assess the environmental impact of farmland in accordance with the National Spatial Planning.

  1. Sediment Quality Management

In 2013, the EPA mandated the industrial authority of each water body to conduct regular sediment quality tests from water bodies in each jurisdiction at least once every five years. As of the end of August 2021, a total of 782 water bodies of sediment quality declarations had been submitted for tests.

  1. Improvement of storage system classification and phased management

To prevent pollution in storage systems, the EPA will keep auditing results submitted by 2,700 underground storage tank operators and further investigate eight enterprises found to have abnormalities to ascertain which will be polluting or not.

On 29 December 2020, the Regulations for Preventing Storage Tanks from Polluting Groundwater Facilities and the Installation of Monitoring Equipment was amended and announced to strengthen the prevention and management of soil and groundwater pollution from surface tanks, which will be carried out by categories and in phases based on tank capacities and the categories of stored materials. The EPA also added 6,300 surface storage tanks under its pollution prevention management and will complete the legal compliance counseling work within two years.

II. Major Tasks between 2020 and 2021

  1. Groundwater management measures
  1. Integrating local environmental groundwater data, assisting in reviewing and planning groundwater monitoring and management systems, and promoting strategies to grasp the water quality status of different aquifers in the future.

(2) Prioritizing the introduction of water quality monitoring and early warning concepts in areas with intensive human activities, such as intensive farming areas.

(3) Developing an intelligent monitoring framework for the groundwater environment in the future.

(4) Regularly updating the candidate list of groundwater concerned substances and survey priorities. The follow-up improvement of prevention management in industrial zones will include promoting early warning monitoring efficiency improvement plan and the circular correction of light signal indicators.

2.  Farmland pollution prevention measures

The EPA established potential farmland pollution zones and planned preventive actions as follows:

(1) Smart monitoring of farmland pollution

A. Comprehensively improving the irrigation water quality and soil’s heavy metal concentrations, dividing the agricultural land in Taiwan according to the pollution potential, determining the cause of pollution, and monitoring farmland according to pollution levels.

B. Amending the principles of regular monitoring of farmland on a rolling basis and regularly monitoring farmland.

C. Cooperating with the monitoring operations of heavy metals in crops and other pollution of the Agriculture and Food Agency of the Council of Agriculture and simultaneously handling the monitoring of farmland soil.

(2) Cross-domain cooperation

A. Inter-ministerial meetings facilitate exchanges between the Council of Agriculture’s data on irrigation water quality and the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ data on potential factories, cooperating to promote a common operating platform and regularly tracking the progress of various tasks.

B. Through multiple data such as farmland soil, irrigation water quality, and business process, the environmental pollutants released by business operations is evaluated to assess the pollution potential of farmland, and the benefits of inter-ministerial division of labor is realized as data on pollution sources, transmission paths and farmland lead to soil pollution warnings.

3. Sediment quality management

The second round of sediment quality declarations began in 2019 and will last until 2023. As of the end of August 2021, 240 sites had been completed, and a total of 782 water body sediment quality declarations were completed in two rounds, which reached the "Taiwan Sustainable Development Goal Corresponding Indicators" and the implementation schedule set in the regular monitoring of the nation’s sediment quality.

4. Improve management of storage systems by categories and batches

The EPA will continue to audit the submissions by 2,700 underground storage tank operators across the country. As of 1 January 2021, the EPA also added 6,300 surface storage tanks to be under its pollution prevention management, which will be carried out by categories and in phases based on tank capacities and the categories of stored materials. Tanks that store oil-based substances will be targeted first, gradually followed by those that store high-pollution-risk chemical substances.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, September 2021

Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)
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