Contaminated rice suspects caught, probe underway: gov’t
A company suspected of renting out rice fields with metal waste buried in the ground was taken to court yesterday in Tainan City, yet the case suggests that a season’s worth of contaminated crops had already made it to market and been consumed.
In an investigation conducted by the Chiyai County Station under the Ministry of Justice, Ming Hsiang Hsin Co., a waste disposal company based in Tainan City, allegedly took and buried 200,000 tons of metal waste from a number of steel and metal companies beneath farmland near Chiang Chun Creek ( ).
The head of Ming Hsiang Hsin Co. and shareholders were charged with violating the Waste Disposal Act, Business Account Act and forgery.
According to the Chiyai County Station, investigations are underway regarding the distribution of the contaminated rice and whether the Chiang Chun Creek had been polluted by the buried metal waste.
A station official stated during local media interviews that officials had been looking into the Ming Hsiang Hsin case for the last six months, and started digging in the area with the help of the Tainan Environmental Protection Bureau after discovering the metal waste dump location.
The company was suspected to have buried the metal waste t wo meters deep i nto t he ground, and rented the contaminated fields out to unsuspecting farmer, thus profiting by at least NT$ 200 million in the past four years.
The Agriculture and Food Agency ( AFA) under the Council of Agriculture ( COA) and the Tainan City Government will take samples of the possibly contaminated soil and crops to determine whether they have exceeded allowable levels of heavy- metal materials. Both sectors also instructed the Syuejia Farmer’s Association to cease distributing its public stock of grains to avoid further instances of consuming potentially problematic crops. Samples of the grain stock will also be taken for testing.
Chuang Lao- ta, an official with the Agriculture and Food Agency’s Southern Branch, stated that the agency’s periodical sampling must have missed the allegedly contaminated crops, in response to questions from reporters about the government’s lack of responsibility in overseeing the sampling.
According to an interview of a farmer by local media sources, the COA may have missed problematic crops during testing because of how the dumped waste metal was buried. Farmers said that the buried waste was covered with at least two meters of soil, since crops get their nutrients from around one meter below the surface.
A backhoe digs into a field of crops in this photo provided by the Chiayi County Station yesterday. The Chiayi County Station charged the suspected company that had been allegedly dumping and burying metal waste in farmlands, and exploiting farmers by renting the contaminated lands out to them for the past four years.