Chinese court jails nine for dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of refuse in Yangtze toxic waste scandal

  • Defendants given sentences ranging from 18 months to six and a half years for one of the biggest environmental scandals in recent years
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 10:21pm

Nine men in eastern China have been jailed for up to six and a half years for dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of rubbish near the mouth of the Yangtze, including toxic waste that threatened to poison the water supply of a nearby city.

The case was one of the biggest environmental pollution scandals in recent years and triggered a national outcry.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that an unlicenced contractor had thrown more than 20,000 tonnes of household refuse, including large amounts of toxic waste, into the river near Taicang, a city that borders Shanghai, in December 2016.

They also illegally buried almost 20,300 tonnes of poisonous waste in Zhejiang and Anhui provinces, prosecutors said.

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On Wednesday Changshu People’s Court in Jiangsu province sentenced the three ringleaders – surnamed Ni, Zhou and Zhang – to jail terms of six and a half years, five years, and four years and three months respectively. They were also given fines of ranging from 400,000 yuan to 1 million yuan (US$58,000 to US$145,000).

Six other defendants were given sentences ranging from 18 months to two years and fined between 50,000 and 60,000 yuan.

The court heard that the refuse they dumped had been dispersed across dozens of kilometres and had seriously damaged water quality.

This forced two tap water suppliers in Taicang to stop piping water from the river for more than two days.

Levels of phenol, an acidic compound with a variety of industrial uses, were found to be anything from 80 to 32,200 times higher than normal in the affected areas.

Prosecutors estimated that the total environmental damage caused by the men’s actions totalled 20 million yuan.

Jin Liantao, vice director of the environmental resources tribunal at the court, told CCTV that people found guilty of damaging the environment by illegally dumping toxic waste can be jailed for between three and seven years.

Ni and Zhou ran a processing company called Tianshun Waste Clearing and Transportation based in Haiyan county in Zhejiang.

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Prosecutors told the court that between August and December 2016, the company had tried to save money by hiring an unlicenced contractor run by Zhang to dispose of waste their firm had collected.

At the end of the year, Zhang’s firm was caught transporting thousands of tonnes of waste by ship and dumping it in the river.

Four of those jailed were the owners of the ships used by Zhang’s company and the other two had worked as crane operators on-board.

The report also said that the city authorities in Taicang and Shanghai had spent 6 million yuan cleaning up the river as a result of their actions.