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The Jiangsu provincial government has won a lawsuit against a company that dumped more than 100 metric tons of waste lye into water bodies in the province, a court announced on Monday.
The province will be compensated almost 55 million yuan ($8 million).
The lawsuit was the first in China to be filed by a provincial government against a company for environmental damage. When the verdict was announced, the defendant, Anhui Haide Co, was absent, even though it had received a subpoena from the Taizhou Intermediate People"s Court in Jiangsu.
The court said that Yang Feng, head of Haide"s sales and marketing, transferred about 102 metric tons of waste lye in May 2014 to people who were unqualified to dispose of hazardous waste.
The lye was dumped into the Yangtze River and Xintongyang canal on several occasions, resulting in severe pollution and leading to the suspension of drinking water supplies for many hours in urban areas of Jingjiang and Xinghua, which Taizhou administers. The dumping occurred during the annual fishing moratorium and led to great losses to the fishing resources of the Yangtze as well as harm to the ecological functions of the river, the court said.
According to the court, about 36 million yuan of the compensation is for environmental restoration and about 18 million yuan is to compensate for the ecological functions damaged by the dumping. The company also had to pay 260,000 yuan to cover the compensation assessment.
The case was first heard in court on May 29. The company argued that Yang handed the waste lye to others for disposal without the company"s authorization, so the company should not bear the legal consequences. That argument, however, was rejected by the court.
As head of sales and marketing, Yang represents the company, the court said. The company paid Yang for the disposal, and he disposed of the waste for the company and was seeking benefits for the company in doing so, the court said.
The company also argued that the water bodies where the wastewater was dumped could purify themselves and there was no need to do any environmental remediation.
However, local environmental authorities tested and found several harmful organic compounds in the affected water bodies.
Haide can appeal to the Jiangsu High People"s Court within 15 days of the verdict taking effect. Otherwise, it should transfer the compensation to a bank account for public interest litigation in Taizhou city within 60 days, the court said.
Nineteen people involved in the illegal dumping have already been sentenced to prison terms of one to six years. Yang Feng was sentenced to prison for 51 months and fined 30,000 yuan.