Chemical leak spreads stench over large areas of Hsinchu County, then causes fire

A leak of chemical gas at the Far Eastern New Century Corporation Chemical Fiber Plant in Xinpu Township spread a pungent smell over large areas of Hsinchu County, could be smelled as far away as Miaoli County, and then caused a fire, Wednesday evening, September 23.

The Hsinchu County Environmental Protection Bureau was first informed of the leak at 5:30 pm.

The leak consisted of a mixture of biphenyl and diphenyl ethers, according to a United Daily News report. Residents in surrounding areas including Hsinchu City and as far away as Zhunan Township in Miaoli County reported a strong odor, and some said they felt dizzy and nauseous.

Hsinchu County EPB dispatched personnel to collect air samples, and monitor air quality in affected areas.

At 9:26 pm the Hsinchu County Fire Department reported that the site of the leak at the chemical fiber plant was on fire.

The company originally claimed that the leak had been repaired around 30 minutes after the incident. However, according to Liberty Times, the valve components had been damaged due to high temperatures, and gases continued leaking from the damaged unit.

Firefighters deployed water spray on the unit in an attempt to prevent ignition, but shortly after 9:00 pm it burst into flames.

Hsinchu County Magistrate Yang Wen-ke has ordered the plant to shut down operations.

The fire was brought under control at 9:48 pm and extinguished at around 10:30 pm.

A fire also occurred at the chemical fiber plant in January 2019. Another chemical leak at the plant in November 2019 resulted in 2,000 local residents signing a petition demanding the county government install a 24-hour real-time pollution monitoring system to monitor emissions from the plant.

Fire at Far Eastern New Century Corporation Chemical Fiber Plant in Xinpu Township, January 29, 2019.
Fire at Far Eastern New Century Corporation Chemical Fiber Plant in Xinpu Township, January 29, 2019.
“Far Eastern New Century Improves Risk Management System to Strengthen Climate Change Adaptability,” according to a Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy report dated August 5, 2020.
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