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March 6, 2013

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Dumping of toxins in forest leads to jail for 4

FOUR people who dumped about 8,000 tons of toxic sludge in a forest used for water and soil protection in suburban Qingpu District received sentences ranging from 22 months to 42 months for environmental pollution, a local court ruled yesterday.

The four were captured in May after villagers in Liantang Town noticed fetid smells and notified local police and Qingpu Environmental Protection Bureau. A fifth person is still being sought.

Prosecutors said the sludge was generated by an urban sewage treatment plant in Wuzhong District of Suzhou City in neighboring Jiangsu Province.

The plant asked the lead suspect, Li Bin, to transport the sludge to designated treatment sites and gave him a transportation fee of 20 yuan (US$3.2) per ton and a treatment fee of 160 yuan per ton, the court heard.

Li, who was supposed to be in charge of transportation only, admitted he shipped the sludge to Shanghai because he wanted to embezzle the treatment fee. He contacted Zhou Haibo, who got a boat and hired two men to dump the sludge.

Heavy metals in sludge

The sludge they dumped between April and May contained heavy metals such as copper, lead, zinc and chromium and a high concentration of toluene, according to the Shanghai Environmental Management Center of Solid Waste.

Public losses and private damage to area homeowners were estimated at 1.56 million yuan, requiring that 12,170 tons of sludge and contaminated soils be removed or treated.

Li said he knew the toxic sludge would pollute the environment but he was driven by profit. He pleaded guilty and got 42 months in prison and a fine of 100,000 yuan while Zhou was sentenced to 42 months and got a fine of 80,000 yuan. One of the workers who dumped the sludge got 22 months and the other 24 months.

The sewage plant covered the losses since it poorly managed the sludge disposal. While the case was solved, police were still searching for a fifth person who used a boat to carry the sludge from Suzhou to Shanghai.

The maximum penalty for environmental pollution is seven years in prison with fines, according to the laws.


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