Sat, Aug 12, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Ruling orders greater compensation over toxic waste

By Wang Chieh  /  Staff reporter

People who live near the China Petrochemical Development Corp plant in Tainan that was found to have caused dioxin pollution shout slogans outside the Taiwan High Court’s Tainan branch yesterday.

Photo: Wang Chieh, Taipei Times

The Taiwan High Court yesterday ordered China Petrochemical Development Corp, Taiwan (中石化) to pay more than NT$190 million (US$6.27 million) in compensation to the plaintiffs in a case in which the company’s chemical processing plant in Tainan’s Annan District (安南) was found guilty of polluting surrounding land with toxic material, including heavy metals, leading to cancer and other health problems in people living near the plant.

It was the second ruling in the case and can be appealed.

The Tainan City Government in 2005 filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of local residents, demanding compensation for people who had developed illnesses due to pollution, which official laboratory findings had confirmed to include dioxin, mercury and other highly toxic chemicals.

The case wound through the courts for more than a decade and more than 50 local residents have died since the trial began.

Representatives from a self-help association said the deaths were directly linked to the pollution from the company, which was merged with Taiwan Alkali Industrial Corp (台鹼) in a government-led initiative in 1982.

The plaintiffs had asked for compensation of NT$340 million, but a district court in the first ruling ordered China Petrochemical to pay NT$160 million.

The High Court said it increased the compensation “for the plaintiffs to live in peace,” adding that “the remaining dioxin was found to be at a higher level than the earlier finding” and “more plaintiffs had developed cancer since the case began.”

Lawyer Lee Ho-fa (李合法), who heads the legal team for the plaintiffs, said it was unfortunate that the ruling failed to hold the Ministry of Economic Affairs to account, meaning the state does not have to pay compensation.

“We will speak with the plaintiffs before deciding whether to file an appeal. However, we hope China Petrochemical does not appeal, so the compensation will be paid soon,” Lee said.

According to the ruling, China Petrochemical is to pay “to enable the plaintiffs to live in peace.”

“Victims in the affected area lived in fear and they were looked down upon by others. People from other areas refused to marry a person from the polluted neighborhood, therefore they had their human rights violated and had suffered in mental anguish,” the ruling said.

“We are thankful that justice has been served and environment protected,” the Tainan City Government said.

However, China Petrochemical issued a statement, saying “there was no connection between it and pollution as cited in the case.”

“The merger with Taiwan Alkali was forced upon us and we had to accept this burden,” it said. “The Ministry of Economic Affairs has made enormous profits from this business over the years, but it did not bear any responsibility. Therefore we will appeal.”

Additional reporting by Chiu Hao-tang

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