The EPA recently took joint command along with the Changhua District Prosecutors Office and the police to crack down on an environmental violation that led to the contamination of irrigation channels and two hectares of farmland in Puxin Township, Changhua County. Following nearly a year of investigations, the operators of an electroplating enterprise that was illegally discharging wastewater containing nickel – a heavy metal harmful to human health – were charged with violating environmental regulations and the Criminal Code.
The raid on the polluting electroplating premises took place on 21 April 2016 and involved personnel from the EPA, the Changhua District Prosecutors Office, the police, the Changhua County Environmental Protection Bureau, and Chang Hua Irrigation Associations. The enterprise operators were found to be failing in their responsibilities by discharging untreated electroplating wastewater through rainwater drainage pipes into irrigation channels in front of its premises. This was not only in violation of environmental regulations by polluting nearby farmland but also in violation of Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code. The operators are being investigated by the Changhua District Prosecutors Office.
Following an announcement in early 2015 by the Changhua County Government that listed a plot of farmland in Puxin Township as a contaminated remediation site, the EPA began investigations into the source of the pollution. Surveys of water channels and the local environment pointed to an electroplating factory situated by the mid-section of one of the irrigation channels in Puxin Township as the likely culprit. More in-depth investigations followed, but solid evidence was hard to collect as the enterprise was discharging its wastewater in an unusual way.
At the end of 2015, the EPA ascertained that the contaminated wastewater was still being discharged. After employing a number of high-tech devices to monitor water quality and gather evidence for four months, the EPA discovered that the electroplating firm was discharging small volumes of highly-polluted wastewater at irregular intervals. Once the location of the discharge outlet was discovered, EPA inspectors took wastewater samples for analysis. The samples were shown to have amounts of the toxic heavy metal nickel far above the maximum value for effluent standards. In one sample the concentration of nickel was 48.5 times the stated maximum, thus seriously impacting downstream water quality.
The EPA reiterated that for enterprises that pollute local waterbodies with wastewater containing levels of harmful substances above the maximums permitted by the Effluent Standards, the enterprise operators are in violation of not only environmental regulations but also in violation of Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code, and thus could face a fine of NT$60,000-20 million and up to seven years in prison. If it is discovered that the enterprises profited from not treating the wastewater properly, any illegal gains accrued will also be confiscated. As farmland was polluted in this case, the enterprise will have to pay the cost for remediation in accordance with the stipulations of the Soil and Groundwater Pollution Remediation Act.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)