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Illegally dumping wastewater to be more heavily punished

Any individual or corporation illegally discharging excess amounts of toxic wastewater that consequently leads to any deaths will face a prison term of between seven years and life, according to an amendment to the Water Pollution Control Act passed at the Executive Yuan yesterday.

The amendment was later sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation.

Following the discovery in 2013 that Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE, 日月光) was dumping wastewater containing strong acids and heavy metals from its K7 facility in Kaohsiung City into the Houchin River (後勁溪) — the main irrigation water source for several districts of Kaohsiung (高雄) — the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) proposed to amend the current Water Pollution Act to levy heavier punishments on violators of the law.

The Executive Yuan spokesmen Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) told a press conference yesterday that the government has decided to raise the fine for illegally disposing of wastewater from between NT$60,000 and NT$600,000 to NT$60,000 and NT$20 million. Sun added that apart from paying the fines, violators will as well have to return all the ill-gotten gains.

Sun said the amendment stipulates that wastewater generated by factories and sewage systems cannot be intentionally disposed of via unregistered pipes, noting that wastewater that needs to be specially processed cannot be diluted with water that does not need to be specially processed before being discharged.

The spokesman said that apart from proposing to levy heavier punishments and raising the limits on fines, the amendment also increases cash awards for people reporting illegal activities. The amendment also proposed several measures to protect whistleblowers, he added.

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