Thu, Mar 24, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Court revokes ASE pollution fine

SIX NOT ENOUGH?Kaohsiung’s deputy mayor said that the city would appeal the decision, which the court said was made because the fine was not properly calculated

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The Kaohsiung High Administrative Court on Tuesday revoked a fine handed down to Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc (ASE) over pollution in the Houjin River (後勁溪) in Kaohsiung in 2013, the verdict sparking criticism from environmentalists.

The company’s K7 factory was found to have discharged highly acidic wastewater containing nickel into the river on Oct. 1, 2013 and the Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau fined the company NT$102 million (US$3.13 million at current exchange rates).

ASE appealed the decision.

The court on Tuesday ruled in favor of ASE, saying the bureau used incorrect criteria to calculate the fine and wrongly estimated the company’s gains from the illegal action.

The fine was calculated based on 70 inspections conducted by the bureau at the plant from 2007 to 2013, but wastewater discharge regulation breaches were only found on six inspections, while no such problems were found from the other 64 inspections, the court said, adding that the fine was unjustified.

The fine should be revoked and recalculated according to correct standards, the court said.

Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Derek Chen (陳金德) said the city government could not accept the ruling and would appeal.

The fine was calculated based on an estimate of the amount of effluent and sludge produced by the K7 plant that went unreported and the city government performed its duty correctly by gathering evidence and facilitating prosecution, Chen said.

He called on the Legislative Yuan to increase the fine again to deter further breaches of the law, adding that the city government’s handling of the ASE case contributed to the latest revision to the Water Pollution Control Act (水污染防治法), which raised the maximum fine from NT$600,000 to NT$20 million.

Environmental group Citizen of the Earth said it is ridiculous that ASE does not have to pay a fine after the company apparently contaminated the Houjin River, farmland, as well as affecting nearby fishing.

“There has been no conviction of the company or its employees so far and all the fines were revoked, despite the compelling evidence,” Citizen of the Earth researcher Lee Han-lin (李翰林) said. “There are laws and punishments, but they cannot be used against violators. What is the problem?”

“As disciplinary measures are already in place, something is clearly wrong with the Kaohsiung City Government’s ability to enforce the law,” Lee said. “It spent two months gathering evidence and calculating fines only to see its decision overruled. What is the use of increased fines if they cannot be imposed?”

“If ASE gets away with this even after so much social and government resources have been invested in investigating and prosecuting the case, what could the city government and the Environmental Protection Administration [EPA] do with other cases that do not attract the same amount of attention and resources?” Lee asked.

The EPA should install a 24-hour water-quality monitoring system in the Houjin River and other rivers prone to pollution, while making all data public online so people could use them in real time to detect potential breaches and deter illegal activities, the group said.

The governments of Taoyuan and Changhua County have established control zones in areas regularly polluted by illicit discharge and the Houjin River should also be recognized as a water quality control zone, where concentrations of heavy metals and contaminants are capped, the group said.

This story has been viewed 2682 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top