In line with the goal of “clean water and sanitation,” one of the UN’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), the EPA is aiming to achieve the ultimate goal of sustainable water quality as major rivers in Taiwan have seen gradual improvements in their water quality. Several projects designed to cut down polluting effluents and pollutants like ammonia nitrogen, have been in place in recent years to meet people’s hopes of enhanced river quality. Such projects include the Ammonia Nitrogen Reduction Demonstration Plan, the National Water Environment Improvement Plan, and other tasks that focus on improving river water quality.
The water quality of Taiwan’s 50 major rivers has been gradually improved, but many rivers still fall short of the target of lowered ammonia nitrogen concentration, and some river sections are still severely polluted. Work, therefore, needs to continue to keep enhancing water quality. Ammonia nitrogen in water depletes dissolved oxygen, causes water quality deterioration, kills aquatic organisms, and produces unpleasant odors that affect public perception. There is a need to reduce ammonia nitrogen in water to ensure that there are no severely polluted river sections and that the current river improvement results can last longer. As a result, the EPA launched the four-year Ammonia Nitrogen Reduction Demonstration Plan (2020-2023) so that river water quality can improve and meet the desired standards.
Otherwise, the implementation of the National Water Environment Improvement Plan and other tasks strengthening river water quality and controlling drinking water quality are still ongoing. Relevant achievements are as follows:
(1) Ammonia nitrogen reduction demonstration plan
A. Subsidies for collecting and treating ammonia nitrogen in livestock wastewater and for obtaining recycling facilities or machinery
To assist small livestock farms with manure disposal, the EPA subsidized local governments in implementing large-farms-assisting-small-farms projects for manure collection from individual farms or centralized treatment of livestock manure. The EPA has subsidized 15 projects that treated and reutilized livestock manure produced by 129,801 pigs and 4,260 cattle from 80 livestock farms. In addition, the EPA also subsidized local governments for purchasing manure collecting and transporting vehicles, irrigation vehicles or machinery, and farm storage barrels to help establish fertilization and irrigation systems. As of July 2022, the EPA had approved and provided subsidies for the purchase of 74 irrigation vehicles, 22 irrigation machines, and 221 agricultural storage barrels. Counties and cities that received the subsidies included Taoyuan City, Taichung City, Changhua County, Yunlin County, Chiayi County, Tainan City, Kaohsiung City, Pingtung County, Hualien County, and Yilan County.
B. Using livestock manure digestate as fertilizer for farmland
The EPA started to promote the use of livestock manure digestate as fertilizer for agricultural land in 2016. As of the end of July 2022, 2,755 farms had adopted livestock manure reutilization, which included 1,633 farms that used manure digestate as fertilizer, 166 farms that reutilized agricultural wastes, and 936 farms that recycled manure to irrigate crops while meeting the effluent standards. Furthermore, 195 of these farms have adopted two of the aforementioned reutilization methods at the same time. Such results have led to an annual total of 8,950,000 metric tons of manure that had been permitted for use as fertilizer. The livestock manure reutilization ratio had reached 30.89% and fertilized 4,031 hectares of farmland, leading to an annual reduction of 56,548 metric tons of organic pollutants. Nitrogen content in the fertilizer had reached 1,388 metric tons per year.
C. Enhancing inspections of the livestock industry
Since 2016, the EPA has instructed local governments to step up inspections of livestock enterprises located near heavily polluted river sections. As of the end of Juy 2022, 25,111 enterprises had been inspected with 3,944 enterprises penalized. Both assistance and enhanced control have been used to improve river water quality.
(2) Forward-Looking Infrastructure Development Program: National Water Environment Improvement Plan (2017-2025)
Promoting the creation of aquatic environments, water purification and wastewater treatment
The EPA subsidizes local governments to carry out river pollution remediation, the establishment of water purification and other treatment facilities, pollution reduction at the source and other water quality improvement projects. As of July 2022, 72 projects had been contracted out, with the main construction completed in 54 of them. As a result, 51,287 hectares of waterfront space with a daily wastewater treatment capacity of 237,800 metric tons, equivalent to a reduction of 6,273.71 kg/day of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), had been established.
(3) Strengthening river water quality improvement and drinking water quality controls
A. Revising regulations related to the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法)
a. The controls for above-ground and underground storage tanks, storage containers, and oil storage sites have been integrated, and they are now regulated as storage facilities. On 1 July 2020 and 26 April 2021, the EPA announced the revisions of the Enterprise Classification and Definition of the Water Pollution Control Act, adding the category of storage enterprise and amending the part under the Water Pollution Control Act that is applicable to storage systems.
b. To upgrade controls on storage systems, the EPA announced on 31 May 2021 revisions of the Regulations Concerning Water Pollution Control Measures and Plans and Permit Applications and Reviews (水污染防治措施計畫及許可申請審查管理辦法), the Regulations Concerning Water Pollution Control Measures, Testing, and Registrations (水污染防治措施及檢測申報管理辦法), and the Guidelines for Penalties for Violating the Water Pollution Control Act (違反水污染防治法罰鍰額度裁罰準則). Other than changing “oil storage plants” in the original texts to “storage systems”, the revisions specified that storage systems are to comply with relevant storage regulations if they store substances announced by Article 33, paragraph 1 of the Water Pollution Control Act. For different types of violations and penalties, the revisions also added points that will affect evaluations.
B. Promoting livestock wastewater reutilization
(1) After referring to the practices of other countries, the EPA has moved away from the conventional concept that regards livestock manure as waste and instead adopted reutilization strategies. This is done in hopes of ameliorating river pollution, raising rural air quality, and properly carrying out policies that turn manure into nitrogen-containing fertilizers.
(2) The EPA cooperated with local environmental authorities and industry groups and provided them with subsidies for sending personnel to farms to provide livestock enterprises with free services, such as matching farms in need of irrigation; conducting tests on soil and groundwater and digestate quality; drafting plans to utilize digestate as fertilizer; and assisting with applications and reviews. In addition, regulations were reviewed and revised on a rolling basis, and procedures were simplified. The livestock enterprises that were still undecided or unwilling to improve under the manure reutilization policy were listed as targets for inspections in order to expedite policy implementation.
(3) The Executive Yuan coordinated with the EPA, the COA, the MOEA, the Industrial Technology Research Institute, and the Taiwan Sugar Corporation to launch Taisugar Donghaifeng Circular Agriculture Park in September 2019. In this park, pig manure from Donghaifeng Farm is treated through anaerobic digestion for reutilization. The park also collects and treats concentrated manure from nearby pig farms. Every day, the park treats about 100 metric tons of pig manure from Donghaifeng Farm, 100 metric tons of manure from nearby farms, 40 metric tons of liquid agricultural waste and 60 metric tons of solid agricultural waste. Pollution in local rivers and environments has been effectively ameliorated, while local pig farms are assisted with manure treatment.
(4) To further promote livestock manure reutilization, the EPA has cooperated with the COA to assist 2,572 pig farms to establish facilities that combine new water-saving pig sheds with a high-efficiency wastewater treatment capacity. Together the agencies have achieved excellent results, such as river pollution amelioration, reduction of odors in rural areas, lower emissions, and a circular economy in the livestock industry.
(5) In light of the EU’s announcement of its draft Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) in mid-July 2021 to officially implement a carbon border tax in 2026, and the fact that currently, the livestock industry can obtain reduction credits through the "Micro-Scale Offset Projects", meetings were held on 16 August 2021 and 9 September 2021 with the Industrial Development Bureau, Bureau of Energy, Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection, the Council of Agriculture and the top 16 carbon emitting enterprises and paper industries regulated under greenhouse gas regulations (such as Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, China Steel Corporation, and strongly impacted enterprises such as those in the petrochemical, steel, cement and paper industries). At the meetings, enterprises were encouraged to invest in large-farms-assist-small-farms projects or projects for centralized treatment of livestock manure, and to acquire renewable energy related certifications, carbon rights or green energy systems. The purpose was to promote sustainability by putting into effect the recycling of livestock resources, activate development of industries, and bring in external capital investment to the livestock industry.
C. Pollution reduction in severely polluted rivers
The percentage of river sections with severe pollution in Taiwan has dropped from 14.0% in 2002 to 3.7% in 2021, and the number of monitoring stations detecting severe pollution has decreased from 66 in 2002 to nine in 2021, demonstrating the improvement of river water quality in the country (Image 5). In recent years, river water quality has been affected by irregular climatic conditions. Uneven rainfalls have caused insufficient base flow and pollutant tolerability and affected river water quality. Since 2017, the number of monitoring stations detecting severe pollution has remained unchanged at ten stations.
The EPA has surveyed river water quality in the country and listed nine monitoring stations that continued to detect severe pollution as primary targets for improvement. The pollution sources and the current problems of these river sections have been analyzed to propose integrated response measures concerning household, livestock, and industrial wastewater, and to determine the minimum amount of pollution that needs to be reduced for these river sections to improve beyond the severely polluted status. Cross-ministerial meetings are to be held to evaluate whether additional or reinforcement measures are needed.
The EPA will continue to carry out relevant, sustainable water quality projects and endeavor to reach the goal of “clean water and sanitation” as prescribed by the UN’s SDG6. To enhance water quality before 2030, work will continue to decrease pollution, cut down the discharge of hazardous chemicals and substances into water bodies, as well as increase water recycling and safe reuse by reducing the ratio of untreated wastewater.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, August 2022
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)