The Supreme Administrative Court rendered the 109-Pan-522 Decision on October 29, 2020 (the “Decision”), in which it held that a chemicals company that discharges wastewater to a surface receiving water body is required to meet the effluent discharge standards, and that it is legal for an agency to test the water quality by taking samples at a discharge point or before the wastewater enters the receiving water body.
The appellant operates in the chemicals industry and is a designated enterprise pursuant to the public announcement issued by the Environmental Protection Administration (hereinafter, the “EPA”) in accordance with Article 2, Paragraph 7 of the Water Pollution Control Law , which means it cannot discharge wastewater (sewage) without a discharge permit or a simplified discharge permit . The appellee, or the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Hsinchu County Government, sent personnel to perform an inspection after receiving a complaint that there was significant bubbling in a stream in its jurisdiction. The inspection revealed that the appellant had been discharging wastewater without a discharge permit, and test results of the water sample taken onsite did not meet the effluent discharge standards. The appellee thus ruled that the appellant has violated Article 7, Paragraph 1 of the Water Pollution Control Law, and it shall be fined in accordance with Article 40, Paragraph 1 of the same as well as the Guidelines for the Fine Imposed under the Water Pollution Control Law as amended on October 19, 2015. In addition, the appellant was ordered to send its personnel responsible for environment protection to attend a two-hour environmental seminar in accordance with Article 23 of the Environmental Education Law. The appellant thus brought an administrative action to overturn the appellee’s ruling and the administrative appeal results; this current appeal was raised after the trial court dismissed its administrative action.
According to the Decision, Article 2 of the Water Pollution Control Law provides: “…. Discharge Point: means the fixed discharge facility established pursuant to law before wastewater (sewage) enters the receiving water body…” In addition, Article 53, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 1 of the EPA Administrative Rules for Water Pollution Control Measures and Reporting of Tests provides that wastewater discharge points should be placed at a surface outside of the work environment and before entering the receiving water body. As a result, Article 7, Paragraph 1 of the Water Pollution Control Law requires the wastewater collected from the discharge point outside the work environment or before entering the receiving water to meet the effluent discharge standards, and it is appropriate for the competent authority to take samples at those locations.
The Decision further reasoned that although the appellant asserted that it was unlawful for the competent authority to take samples within the appellant’s plant because there there were other possible sampling points, but since it was impossible to determine whether the discharge points or river surface between the plant discharge and the receiving water body had commingling from other water sources, those are inappropriate sampling locations, so the inspectors took samples within the plant. Further, according to the appellant’s wastewater treatment facility process, after the raw water flows into the “active carbon absorption tank” for processing, it goes to the T01-03 “clean water storage tank”, with overflows going to the T01-04 “clean water storage tank”, so he water quality of the two clean water storage tanks was identical without commingling from other water sources. In addition, since the audit photos confirm that there was no appropriate sampling point for T01-04, the inspection personnel’s decision to use T01-03 as the best sampling spot did not impair the accuracy of the test results. Even though the appellant further argued that the test results would be different between T01-03 and T01-04 because T01-04 has wastewater concentration reduction capabilities, which made the appellee’s sample results invalid, after examining the evidence in the case volume, there is no apparent violation of logical, empirical or evidentiary rules or insufficient or inconsistent reasoning, thus the lower court’s decision to affirm the appellee’s decision was compliant with the law.