In October 2022, the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Taichung City Government discovered evidence of unscrupulous businesses illegally dumping hazardous industrial waste into the soil in Qingshui District, Taichung City. After investigations, the Taichung District Prosecutors Office concluded the case on 31 March 2023, with estimated illegal gains exceeding NT$83.35 million. Eleven offenders, including the head of the main offending company, were charged with violating the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法), and will be held responsible for environmental restoration.
In 2022, evidence was reported to the Taichung District Prosecutors Office, which then commanded the Taichung Field Division of the Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, the Seventh Special Police Corps, and the National Taxation Bureau of the Northern Area to investigate the case. A task force was formed with the EPA and the environmental protection bureaus of Taoyuan City, Taichung City, and Miaoli County to expand the investigation. The investigation traced and uncovered a case of environmental crime in which a Taoyuan-based waste acid recycling company illegally disposed of waste acid received from factories without undergoing proper recycling processes.
The company in question is a recycling organization that primarily collects waste pickling acids from factories. In order to save costs, the company did not add chemicals to treat the waste acids during the recycling process in accordance to regulations. They commissioned unscrupulous businesses to transport the used strong acids without having gone through the proper recycling process, and illegally disposed of them in various locations spanning four counties/cities: Xinwu in Taoyuan, Sanwan in Miaoli, Qingshui and Dali in Taichung, and Dacheng Township in Changhua County. At the same time, they fabricated false reports on the amount of raw materials used, monthly sales reports, shipping invoices, product weighing records, and seals, with the intention of evading detection by environmental protection personnel.
Through the joint efforts of the special task force composed by the Taichung District Prosecutors Office and various agencies, including the EPA and the environmental protection bureaus of relevant counties and cities, the source of the waste acid and the related criminal networks and methods were traced and clarified. Key evidence was obtained to put an end to the illegal activities of unscrupulous businesses that harm the land and pollute the environment.
The task force spent nearly half a year comparing relevant financial flows, big data, and conducting verification work such as excavating disposal sites, inspecting waste and soil samples component by component, and unraveling the criminal methods of the dishonest operators. These methods included dumping waste pickling acids of strong acidity into holes, directly pouring them on the ground, hiding them in bamboo forests and camping sites, or disposing of them on remote cemetery land. Suspected disposal sites were excavated and sampling and testing were carried out to confirm the extent of pollution and strengthen the evidence of the illegal acts of the operators who criminally harmed the land. The soil pollution conditions at the relevant disposal sites have been evaluated by the county/city environmental protection bureaus, and emergency response measures have been taken to prevent the spread of pollution.
Another notable point is that during the process of verifying one of the illegal dumping sites, EPA personnel inspected the downstream riverbed of Zhonggang River in Sanwan Township, Miaoli County. Despite the dangerous and steep terrain and sharp rocks, they hiked three kilometers upstream along the river and finally found the illegal dumping site. It was this relentless spirit that enabled the authorities to uncover the unlawful acts of the businesses.
The EPA would like to extend its special thanks to the Taichung District Prosecutors Office and the agencies and members that formed the special task force for the investigation of this case. Through the cross-agency collaborations, the mechanisms and effectiveness of environmental regional governance have been fully demonstrated. The EPA will continue to rely on the collaboration platforms set up between the prosecutors’ offices, police and environmental protection bureaus for cracking down on environmental crimes and uphold the policy of regional governance to bring environmental criminals to justice and jointly maintain environmental quality with the citizenry.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, March 2023
- Ministry of Environment