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Chip Plant Closure Demanded After Toxic Discharge

12 December 2013

Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc., the world's largest IC packaging and testing services company, may have to close a manufacturing plant in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, because it has discharged untreated waste-water into the Houjin River, according to local reports. Meanwhile further investigations are underway, both to determine the impact of the pollution and internally at ASE, the reports said.

The reports said that Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau has fined ASE NT$600,000 (about US$20,000) for violating the Water Pollution Control Act and ordered the K7 factory to shut down. ASE has ten days to provide an acceptable explanation for the discharge before it must comply, the reports said.

In a statement ASE said the company regrets the "accidental discharge of wastewater containing abnormal levels of acidity." The company said it has taken steps to upgrade waste water treatment equipment and improve monitoring and employee training.

Other manufacturers such as Amkor in South Korea and Stats ChipPac in Singapore could benefit if fabless chip customers attempt to switch chip packaging away from ASE although stockpiles of chips mean that may not happen immediately. The K7 plant is ASE's largest flip-chip and bumping facility and is responsible for 10 percent of the company's total sales. Major customers of the facility include Qualcomm and MediaTek, according to a Taipei Times report.

The water sampled by the bureau was found to be heavily acidic and include nickel in concentrations above specified acceptable limits. The alleged discharge is of particular concern because the water is used for irrigation of farmland and lies upstream of fish farms, the reports said.

ASE has been a persistent offender and the K7 plant had been fined seven times in the previous 27 months according to a Tech Taiwan report the cited the bureau's records. In addition to forcing the closure of the plant the government is empowered to seize income from illegal manufacturing.

In addition The China Post in its report of the matter said that ASE stands accused of using concealed pipes for waste-water discharge that were not registered with the authorities as is required. The China Post referenced Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration Minister Stephen Shen as its source on this.

In its statement ASE also said: "ASE is also fully cooperating with the Kaohsiung City Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) to submit all relevant reports and adhere strictly to regulations stipulated by the national and local environmental authorities."

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