Wed, Sep 30, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Court reverses verdict in ASE pollution case

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

People watch factory waste being released into the Houjing River in Kaohsiung in an undated photograph.

Photo: Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times

The Taiwan High Court’s Kaohsiung branch yesterday reversed a lower court verdict, finding all five defendants in a 2013 pollution case involving Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc (ASE, 日月光半導體) not guilty on various charges related to discharging wastewater from the company’s K7 plant into the Houjing River (後勁溪).

The court acquitted four ASE executives and employees of all charges, including K7 plant general manager Su Ping-shou (蘇炳碩), plant wastewater section director Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡奇勳) and two wastewater section engineers — Yu Chih-hsien (游志賢) and Liu Wei-cheng (劉威呈).

Yesterday’s second ruling in the ongoing trial also cleared ASE of charges, meaning the company does not have to pay a NT$3 million (US$90,901) fine imposed by the Kaohsiung District Court in the first ruling on Oct. 20 last year.

In the first ruling, the court found the four defendants guilty, but gave suspended sentences ranging from 16 months to 22 months, related to breaches of the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法).

Prosecutors appealed to the higher court at that time, saying the punishments were too lenient, as suspended sentences meant none of the defendants had to serve jail terms.

Another ASE K7 plant engineer, Ho Teng-yang (何登陽), who was found not guilty in last year’s ruling, had his verdict upheld by the high court.

ASE, said to be world’s largest IC packaging company, was accused of dumping industrial wastewater containing carcinogenic compounds and other toxic substances in the Houjing River after reports of discoloration and suspected pollution in October 2013.

Yesterday’s ruling was based on the judge’s belief that ASE had treated the wastewater and waste sludge differently, and that if any violations had occurred, they would be of the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法).

The wastewater in question was not “hazardous industrial waste,” so the first ruling was wrong to have cited violations of the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法), yesterday’s ruling said.

The ruling said that Water Pollution Control Act laws regarding the discharge of toxic wastewater by businesses were only amended in February, and therefore a punishment cannot be meted out for a case from 2013.

The ruling also said that ASE employees had added extra amounts of alkaline liquid into wastewater to neutralize its acidity on the day pollution levels were recorded (Oct. 1, 2013), with pH levels shown to have returned to legal discharge standards by 8pm that night.

“Although there were shortcomings on that day’s processing and treatment of wastewater, it was not done deliberately, nor was it done in a haphazard way... Therefore, there were flaws in the first ruling,” it said.

It also said that prosecutors provided only one fish specimen and one sample from the riverbed as evidence of pollution, without presenting samples from other locations, or samples from preceding and subsequent times for comparison, adding that as reasonable doubt remains, the defendants should be acquitted of the charges.

The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office said it would decide whether to appeal the case after reviewing the ruling.

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