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Li Yue Copper Refinery Becomes First Remediation Site to Incorporate New Risk Management Focus

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Li Yue Copper Refinery is one of Taiwan’s significant large-scale soil pollution remediation sites. It fits what is stated in the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act (土壤及地下水污染整治法) Article 24, paragraph 2, considering its pollutant characteristics, current pollution remediation technologies, and environmental impacts due to its location. After risk assessments, investigations and document evaluations through all stages, on 26 August 2022, it was determined that the site had achieved its remediation goal. This meant that, with appropriate risk management measures and controls adopted, the risks which the site poses under all scenarios are within the acceptable ranges. 

The Act was first promulgated in 2000 and then revised in 2003, incorporating risk assessment mechanisms and principles into improvement and control operations for pollution sites. Take Articles 12 and 24 for instance. For a pollution site, these articles are used to define whether pollutants affect health and environments in the vicinity and consequently to decide whether or not a site needs to undergo remediation, and if so, how much. Otherwise, risk assessment results are to be used as a basis for setting various tasks related to remediation goals, programs, and protection levels.

Previous investigation showed that pollutants in Li Yue Copper Refinery were primarily arsenic and copper, along with lower levels of mercury, cadmium, chromium, nickel, lead, and zinc. Since the site is located close to mines in the Jinguashi region, the background concentrations of heavy metals are higher than those in other regions due to local geological and chemical factors. Considering its pollutant characteristics, current pollution remediation technologies, and location, the site therefore qualifies under what is stated in Article 24, paragraph 2 of the Act.

In November 2017, based on the risk assessment results the site polluters applied to adopt appropriate risk management measures as soil pollution remediation goals. To reduce risks from the site, proposed measures included removal, sealing, and isolation of pollutant sources from surface exposure. All documents during all stages of evaluation – the environmental impact assessment, the health and risk assessment plan, the environmental impacts and health and risk assessment report, and the report on remediation goals based on risk assessment results – were reviewed by the EPA’s soil and groundwater pollution remediation assessment team.

On 26 August 2022, the EPA approved the three proposed remediation goals of the site. They are to lower the total risk of cancer for onsite operators during the remediation to under one in 100,000, and lower the total risk of cancer and the total risk of non-cancer diseases in all other scenarios to under one in a million and under 1, respectively. Moreover, the Records of Decision, a procedure adopted by the USEPA, was introduced in the decision process in order to achieve both environmental protection and economic goals. Approval would allow the site to undergo remediation, adopting proper risk management measures and needed controls so that risks in all scenarios will fall within acceptable ranges, ensuring public safety. These measures have made this site Taiwan’s first remediation case with pollution controls focused on risk management and assessment.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, September 2022

Ministry of Environment