The EPA has formed a special task force with the power to target enterprises that use VOCs heavily, such as the PU synthetic leather industry, the printmaking industry, and the lacquering and paint finishing industry. Four enterprises were found to have violated regulations between 2018 and 2020, with combined fines reaching NT$51.3 million. NT$42.193 million of illegal gains were confiscated, and 28 people were investigated and apprehended. The effort has ultimately incentivized enterprises to invest roughly NT$90 million in air pollution control and cut 851 metric tons of VOC emissions, equivalent to the annual emission of 113,000 two-stroke motorcycles.
The EPA notes that there is growing public awareness of phenomena affecting air quality, such as the emission of colorless VOCs into the atmosphere causing spikes in ozone concentration after photochemical reactions, or the fact that high concentrations of VOCs are carcinogenic and pose potential risks to the human nervous system. Thus, to safeguard public health, VOCs such as toluene and xylene, often generated in industrial processes, have been announced by the EPA as harmful air pollutants.
The EPA further explained that the special task force inspects various environmental permit systems and environmental quality monitoring data with smart technology, and strategically targets and analyzes enterprises with high pollution potential. It has been able to detect significant violations with advanced technology used to collect evidence. Once evidence points to environmental violations, district prosecutors' offices, local investigation bureaus, and police units under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) are brought in to conduct joint investigations.
The special task force found four enterprises engaged in rerouting VOC discharges or improper VOC treatment, of which the Taichung District Prosecutors Offices investigated three, and the Nantou District Prosecutors Offices one. All the offenders face criminal charges.
The EPA expressed that it will keep monitoring other industries that use large amounts of VOCs and enhance inspection and analysis of big data on air quality. All meteorological data, all information regarding pollution sources, and data from air quality-related Internet of Things (IoT) are continually compared and audited to understand high pollution potentials and pollution sources in real-time. Moreover, high-tech instruments are also utilized to collect evidence to help conduct thorough and complete inspections.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, June 2021
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)