From 24 to 26 February, Taiwan was under the influence of easterly wind patterns for three consecutive days causing low wind speeds, poor air dispersion, and increased accumulation of pollutants in the western half of the island, which led to poor air quality. The EPA issued a warning of poor air quality four days in advance and mobilized relevant response measures. In addition, ten counties/cities south of Miaoli County, along with the central and southern branches of the Bureaus of Environmental Inspection, were placed under the EPA’s command in a joint inspection of large stationary pollution sources in the central and southern regions. A total of 165 personnel were deployed, who found 14 violations that are expected to result in a total of NT$1.4 million in fines.
Since October 2019, the EPA has regularly held the Inter-regional Cooperation, Prevention, and Response Team Against Air Pollution Meeting with counties and cities in Taiwan in order to coordinate local environmental bureaus’ response measures. The measures carried out in November and December 2019 included joint operations such as cross-county drone inspections on open-air burnings and inspections of large stationary pollution sources. These were the EPA’s first joint operations with local environmental bureaus south of Miaoli County as well as the central and southern branches of the Bureaus of Environmental Inspection. A total of 165 personnel were deployed to carry out joint permit inspections and test equipment components used in 60 processing procedures at 33 public and private venues of 27 industries. The inspections focused on stationary sources of large amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are PM2.5 precursors. The inspections also targeted major construction projects prone to emit fugitive dust, in an effort to prevent such pollution sources from causing more harm in times of poor air quality.
The EPA stated that the joint inspections found 14 violations, which will all be charged and penalized accordingly. Seven violations involved operations not in accordance with what is approved under the stationary pollution source operating permits. For example, one company in Taichung City installed equipment and operated without necessary permits. Two incidents were due to incompliance with pollutant emission standards, two failed to keep air pollution control or monitoring facilities from operating normally, and the rest included three violations against the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法) and the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法).
The EPA stressed that it is necessary to tighten control of all pollution sources because of poor air quality as well as poor dispersion commonly seen in central and southern Taiwan during fall and winter. Also, the recent air quality in central and southern Taiwan reached the “orange alert” level, with high levels of VOCs, which are the precursors of PM2.5 and ozone, both major indicator pollutants of this level. As a result, enterprises were urged to operate in accordance with environmental regulations, and do their best to protect air quality.
The EPA worked with local governments to monitor changes in air quality, and implemented regional control and response measures in a timely manner based on the Regulations Governing Emergency Measures to Prevent Severely Deteriorated Air Quality (空氣品質嚴重惡化緊急防制辦法). These measures include tightening controls to lower air pollution caused by major factories and construction sites, controlling fugitive dust by covering dumped materials at major dumping sites and washing and cleaning roads, and by patrolling and inspecting the restaurant industry and open-air burning. The EPA has also coordinated with Taipower’s Taichung and Hsinta Power Plants, both coal-burning power plants, to reduce air pollutant emissions in advance. Results of all environmental agencies’ measures will be posted on the Severe Deteriorating Air Quality Warning Information Platform (https://goo.gl/mtRBJ6) for all to see.
Since air quality is greatly influenced by meteorological factors, the EPA cautioned the public to keep an eye on the latest air quality information as weather conditions are still unstable. People can visit the Taiwan Air Quality Monitoring Network (http://taqm.epa.gov.tw) and the i-Environment website (http://ienv.epa.gov.tw) to check on the latest air quality changes, or set up different alert levels with the “Environment Info Push” app on smartphones for better protection.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 23 (3)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)