ASE chair's apology for water pollution delivered

An apology delivered by the founder of Taiwan-based Advanced Semiconductor Engineering might fail to convince environmental officials and prosecutors.

Amid ongoing criticisms over water pollution caused by untreated wastewater from a plant in southern Taiwan, the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) Chairman Jason Chang apologized on December 16 for causing public disturbance, according the state-run Central News Agency (CNA).

Chang told a news conference in Taipei that all wastewater management problems at the offending plant, K7, have been fixed, and that the plant's operation remains normal.

This is Chang's first public appearance since ASE was fined TW$600,000 ($20,300) on December 9 by Kaohsiung City government for discharging untreated industrial wastewater into the Houjin River from its K7 plant in the Nanzi industrial complex. Pollutants released by the plant are toxic heavy metals, including carcinogenic nickel compounds.

According to Chang, from 2010 to 2013, ASE invested TW$392 million ($13.2 million) in treating industrial water. An additional TW$750 million ($25.3 million) will be used to build a water reclamation plant at its K14 plant, which will start in the second quarter of 2014, treating wastewater gathered from all ASE plants in the industrial complex.

"Starting next year, ASE will donate at least TW$100 million [$3.37 million] each year over a period of 30 years to promote environmental protection in Taiwan," Chang said, adding that the action shows ASE's feedback to the island nourishing the nearly 30-year-old company.

Chang also denied the installation of secret wastewater pipelines, stressing that the company did not intentionally pollute the river.

Chang's argument, however, was refuted by the city's Environmental Protection Bureau. Bureau director-general Jin-de Chen said on December 16 that official records suggest that the plant had been fined for several times due to poor wastewater management.

Inspectors of the city's Environmental Protection Bureau since December 14 have been stationed at the K7 plant to monitor its wastewater treatment, CNA reported.

The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office said on December 16 that the investigation into the water pollution will not be affected by Chang's statement.

Last week, Kaohsiung prosecutors questioned two ASE high-level managers. One was taken into custody while the other was released on NT$5 million ($168,690) bail. Prosecutors have also said that they want to question ASE head Chang, according to CNA.

On December 15, police and prosecutors raided five ASE plants in Kaohsiung, seizing documents and computers with video feeds, as they worked to determine how the company should be held responsible for the dumping of the untreated wastewater into rivers.

Meanwhile, another ASE plant in Chung-li, Taoyuan County, was found releasing some 1,275 metric tonnes of untreated wastewater in the last two months. On December 14, Taoyuan County government ordered the plant to shut down three wafer-cutting machines. According to ASE statement dated December 15, the plant's three machines are back online, as it has made "corrections" demanded by authorities, CNA reported.