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August 27, 2009

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Jail, fines for lake polluters to stand

A FINAL appeal court yesterday upheld the penalties to fine a firm in southwest China 16 million yuan (US$2.34 million) and jail three of its executives for polluting a major freshwater lake.

The Intermediate People's Court of Yuxi City, Yunnan Province, upheld the decision by Chengjiang County People's Court on June 2, the Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

The court found Yunnan Chengiang Jinye Industrial and Trade Co and three of its executives guilty of polluting Yangzonghai Lake, one of nine plateau lakes in Yunnan.

Board Chairman Li Dahong was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 300,000 yuan by the court.

General Manager Li Yaohong and Production Department Chief Jin Dadong each received a three-year jail term plus a fine of 150,000 yuan.

The company and the three executives appealed to the Yuxi court.

The appellants pleaded not guilty and said pollution levels were beyond the company's emission capacity and the forensic tests were carried out by unauthorized organization and individuals.

They applied for tests again and claimed the evidence gathering was illegal as the person who took a sample from the scene was different from the one named on the forensic report.

Li also argued he was not in charge of the daily production nor environment protection areas of the company.

The Yuxi court was not impressed by their defence.

Water in the lake was found to contain arsenic last June and the company was identified as the source of the pollution on September 17.

The company was shut down and those thought responsible were detained. The provincial government said 26 officials were involved in the crime and 12 were sacked.

The local government is making efforts to improve water quality in the lake.

The environmental protection bureau of Kunming, the provincial capital, announced in March that the volume of arsenic had been lowered from 0.128 milligrams per liter to 0.111mg per liter.

But Qin Guangrong, Yunnan's provincial governor, estimated that it would take three years to bring the density down to a safe level, below 0.05mg per liter.


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