On the night of 17 September 2020, the Environmental Protection Bureau of Kaohsiung City received continuous complaints from the public regarding abnormal chemical odor in Niaosong District of Kaohsiung City. Upon inspection by Ciaotou District Prosecutors Office, it was discovered that a factory was being rented for disposing of waste materials. A task force was formed to direct the Seventh Special Police Corps and the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau’s Kaohsiung City Office to gather evidence and expand investigation in conjunction with the EPA and the Environmental Protection Bureau of Kaohsiung City. The collection, comparison, and search for evidence continued for over a year. On 11 January 2022, the criminal group was apprehended for improperly disposing of hazardous industrial wastes in a rented factory. Four people were detained and held incommunicado. A preliminary estimate of illegal profits stood at several million NT dollars.
The EPA said that at first, footage from surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the factory was examined and filtered vehicle by vehicle. After isolating the vehicle involved in the case and through comparing it with the evidence left at the scene, the identity of a suspect was determined. Further surveillance and collection of evidence revealed that a criminal group headed by a suspect surnamed Liu rented a vacant factory in Niaosong District. It claimed that the facility was used to store solar energy equipment but it was illegally used to dispose of large quantities of industrial waste materials. The Environmental Protection Bureau of Kaohsiung City conducted tests on the waste materials and ascertained that they were waste solvents with flashpoints of less than 40 °C and greater than 200mg/L of butanone, which is classified as hazardous industrial waste.
To prevent the spread of pollution, in addition to the emergency removal and placing in proper storage of the wastes found at the site, subsequent investigation revealed the identities of the perpetrators, drivers and transport companies involved in illegal waste material clearance and disposal, all of whom were brought to justice for violating the Waste Disposal Act.
Furthermore, in the course of expanding the investigation, the prosecutor also found that the group had conducted soil preparations in a fish-pond land in Hunei District of Kaohsiung City under pretenses of setting up ground-based solar photovoltaic power generation facilities when in fact they buried waste materials under the soil. After on-site excavation, the site was backfilled with a significant amount of industrial waste, such as mixtures of construction waste. The landlord provided the land to be backfilled with waste materials without permission.
The EPA said that in order to put an end to illegal clearance and disposal of industrial wastes, the EPA has been cooperating with the prosecutors' offices, the police, and the Investigation Bureau for many years to combat environmental crimes jointly. The results have been fruitful, and all waste source enterprises are urged to refrain from entrusting unscrupulous companies for clearance of industrial wastes, or they will face criminal liability for conspiracy. They will need to jointly undertake the obligation to restore and clean up the disposal sites. The maximum penalty is imprisonment of up to 5 years with a possible fine of $15 million.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, February 2022
- Ministry of Environment