Taipei, Dec. 10 (CNA) Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE), one of the world's leading providers of semiconductor packing services, was fined Tuesday after its factory in Kaohsiung was found to be discharging toxic wastewater into an irrigation stream.
The Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau said its investigators found high levels of acidity and metallic nickel in samples of water taken from the factory's discharge pool and from Houjing Creek, into which it empties.
"The wastewater was being released without treatment," an investigator said.
Water from Houjing Creek is used to irrigate hundreds of hectares of paddy fields.
The factory, known as K7, was fined NT$600,000 (US$20,314) and ordered to suspend operations for violating the Water Pollution Control Act, but no time period was mentioned.
ASE said, however, that it had not received a suspension order and its K7 plant remained in operation.
The company also said it will do everything it can to meet the improvement requirements of the Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau.
Houjing Creek supplies water for agricultural purposes in the Kaohsiung area in southern Taiwan.
The water samples from the stream had a pH reading of 3.02, while those from the discharge pool had a 2.63 reading, the bureau said, noting that the safe level is 6-9.
Moreover, the nickel content in the wastewater pool was 4.38 mg per liter, way above the allowable 1 mg per liter, the bureau said.
An investigation has been launched to see whether the wastewater from the K7 plant in Nanzih District has polluted farmlands along the stream, the city government said.
The factory has a wastewater treatment facility and staff and did not report a problem with the water that was being discharged into the stream, investigators said.
If a factory accidentally discharges wastewater that can cause pollution, it is required to report the matter to the environmental bureau.
The K7 plant was also found to have been running tap water into its wastewater storage pool when samples were to be taken for regular testing in an attempt to fool officials, the city's environmental bureau said.
Commenting on the issue, Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen said steps will be taken to pursue any illicit gains made by the company.
Shen said his ministry will assist with the investigation to find out how long the wastewater problem was there and whether anyone in the company was aware of it.
Nickle is defined by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen. Ingestion of high levels of nickel can cause lung and prostate cancer, according to toxicologists.
(By Chen Chao-fu, Jalen Chung, Zoe Wei and Elizabeth Hsu)