Four managers at two firms in Changhua County that were found to have illegally emitted dioxin into the air were sentenced to up to four years in prison, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday, adding that the illegal operations were exposed after a deadly car accident in 2016.
The two firms, identified only by the first characters of their Chinese names, Chang (長) and Ding (鼎), were found to have operated boilers without proper air pollution control facilities and emitted exhaust gases that contained dioxin concentrations nine times as high as the permitted quantity of 0.5 nanogram international toxic equivalents per cubic meter, the EPA said.
The firms operated boilers to sell thermal energy to texture dyeing and finishing plants, but used unapproved waste timber as fuel, Bureau of Environmental Inspection Central Branch Director Lee Chin-fu (李金福) said.
The two firms, which had cross-shareholdings in each other, also commissioned an unlicensed waste disposal company to dump furnace dust that contained dioxin, he said.
Their unlawful activities were exposed when a truck driver commissioned to carry their furnace slag died in a trucking accident in the county in October 2016 and the authorities tracked the firms down, he said.
Vehicles transporting industrial waste are required to install GPS systems so that the agency can track them, but the driver had turned off the truck’s GPS device, Lee said.
The accident likely happened because the truck was overloaded with waste and exceeded the speed limit at night, he added.
After a trial that lasted almost two years, the Changhua District Court on Jan. 10 sentenced the four managers to between two years and six months and four years in prison in accordance with the Criminal Code and the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法), the EPA said.
The companies’ estimated ill-gotten revenues of more than NT$16 million (US$518,639) were confiscated, the agency added.
The case can still be appealed. It was unclear whether the companies’ owners are among the managers convicted.
Lee said that local residents near the firms’ plants might not be able to obtain compensation from the firms, as the effects of their pollution on surrounding populations would be hard to prove.
After the Air Pollution Control Act (空氣污染防制法) was amended last year, those causing serious air pollution could face fines of up to NT$20 million, as well as prison sentences, he said.
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