Ten Years of Pollution Investigations at Unused Factories


To protect soil and groundwater, thorough investigations of unused factories and assessments of in-situ pollution – followed by site remediation – are necessary. To this end, since 2004 the EPA has surveyed 120,000 unused factories, of which 740 were deemed to be potentially highly polluting. To date, the EPA has conducted in-depth investigation on 175 factories with high polluting potential and has found pollution in 102 of them. The EPA plans to carry out the in-depth investigation on another 500 high polluting potential factories. To improve the efficiency of screening for pollution potential, the EPA has established an environmental risk screening mechanism and a management platform. Combined with a geological information system, the investigation results can be instantly uploaded on the management platform. In the future, to bring about sustainable land use the EPA will accelerate remediation of contaminated sites, strengthen self-regulation of enterprises, and enhance pollution control at source.

As a part of the task of managing pollution at unused factories, since 2004 the EPA has been conducting surveys and assessments on all of Taiwan’s 120,000 or so unused factories and has selected 740 that are potentially highly polluting. From 2004 to August 2016, the EPA completed pollution investigations at 175 factories and found serious pollution at 102 of them, a discovery rate of 58%. The EPA expects to complete surveys of another 500 of the 740 factories that have been found with high polluting potential within the next three years.

Surveys of High Pollution Potential Factories Expected to Complete within Three Years

For the surveys, the EPA first screened approximately 42,000 potentially polluting factories from the industry categories that have known pollution problems. Using standardized survey procedures and technical manuals, EPA inspectors gathered basic data that was used to facilitate investigation of actual pollution conditions at unused factories, including data on original facilities and the impacts on sensitive receptors in the surrounding environment. The investigation allowed the EPA to select 3,500 factories and assign a color code to each one according to severity of pollution.

For the 2,200 factories deemed to be in the high- or medium-risk categories, the EPA conducted environmental assessments that included on-site surveys, collection of information on the factories, and interviews of staff and local residents. The assessments have allowed the EPA to gain a clear picture of potential pollution sources, types of pollution, and pollution distribution at the sites. After screening, 175 sites were selected for in-depth investigation, of which 102 were found to have soil or groundwater pollution, a discovery rate of 58%.

Analysis of the pollution survey statistics showed that of these 102 polluted factory sites, 88 have soil contamination, six have groundwater contamination, and eight have both soil and groundwater pollution. The soil contamination was mainly due to the presence of heavy metals, with total petroleum hydrocarbons playing a secondary role. The groundwater pollution was mainly due to volatile organic chemicals followed by heavy metals.

Following the EPA’s active surveying of unused factories, there remain around 500 factories deemed to be in the high- or medium-risk categories. The EPA will compile information and classify the factories according to risk level before handing the cases over to local competent authorities for further investigation. The EPA expects to complete investigation of the 500 factories within the next three years.

Following assessment and screening, the owners of factories where pollution was discovered will be notified to carry out remediation. Under the supervision of environmental agencies, 71 such polluted sites have already been removed from the control list after completing remediation, which also prevents pollution from spreading into the wider environment. Of the 31 polluted sites still under remediation, the supervising environmental agencies will continue to do remediation work, and all said sites are expected to be removed from the control list within five years.

From January to August of 2016, the EPA carried out investigations at the potentially highly polluting factories, of which 15 have been penalized by their local environmental protection bureaus. The EPA will continue to monitor the pollution status of manufacturing operations at all potentially high- or medium-risk factories. The EPA will also speed up its program of contaminated site remediation, as well as demand more pollution self-regulation from Taiwan’s enterprises.

Pollution Control and Risk Screening for Soil and Groundwater Protection

The many years of inspections and surveys have led to the formation of a comprehensive environmental risk screening and management platform which works in tandem with pollution control measures. Industrial activity is the main cause of soil and groundwater pollution and the form that such activity takes can change quickly. Factories can be moved to other locations, or may suspend or halt operations, and thus leave waste untreated and premises unmanaged. Sites may also be released for redevelopment, all of which can cause pollution to be spread.

To effectively manage unused factories, Articles 8 and 9 of the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act stipulate that from 2005, announced enterprises that wish to move premises must undergo soil and groundwater pollution assessment investigation and testing before closing the original factory and applying for a new license. To ensure the quality of investigation and pollution prevention at industrial sites, the procedures must include on-site inspections by qualified inspectors, testing results produced by a certified environmental laboratory, and certification by a professional environmental engineer.

To date, the system of soil and groundwater pollution assessment investigation and testing for industrial sites has resulted in over 5,000 cases being reported. Of these, the main polluted sites have involved metal plating, petrol stations, and the printed circuit board industry (51%), the premises of which cover a total land area of over 47.88 million square meters. Of these 5,000 cases, 68 involved instances of testing values exceeding stated maximums, some involved operators protecting their rights, and some involved future business operations testing for pollution before renting out premises so as to protect themselves from liabilities stemming from the pollution. This shows that the system also has an early alert function that helps protect soil and groundwater.

The environmental risk screening and management platform for unused factories produces pollution potential risk assessments based on parameters such as the registered area of the original premises, the number of years of operation, the nature of the business, transmission routes for on-site pollution, and risk level for pollution receptors. It produces a pollution potential map to which data from on-site surveys can be added. The platform has been awarded two patents by the Intellectual Property Office of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), titled: “Factory Environment Risk Screening Method,” and “Unused Factory Environment Risk Screening System.”

Unused factories are spread across Taiwan. To improve administrative efficiency and quality, the EPA has successfully developed a supplementary system that allows inspectors to upload field data instantly from the sites. This system also has a patent titled “Spatial Information Processing and Output System, Computer Program Product and Methodology for Environmental Site Assessments” issued by the Intellectual Property Office of the MOEA. Using the above tools, the EPA has reached its management goals for contaminated factory sites as “pilot demonstrations in the short-term, full control of pollution statuses in the medium-term, and efficient management for the long-term.”

Future Outlook

The EPA’s survey program of unused factories has now been running for over ten years. The continued cooperation between central and local governments has yielded many achievements and much useful experience. The first stages of the program have been completed, and the EPA will be building upon them to expand the program to all polluted factory sites around Taiwan. The EPA will seek to strengthen self-regulation among the enterprises concerned and promote the use of environmental liability insurance. The system of self-surveys for enterprises listed under Articles 8 and 9 of the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act has proven to be effective.

The EPA will conduct preventative supervision and management in regions to ensure that survey resources are used efficiently and that pollution control is implemented thoroughly, so as to reach the goal of sustainable land management.

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