Luliang Chemical Industry & Peace Technology lawsuit (re heavy metal pollution in China)

In 2011, two environmental NGOs in China filed a lawsuit against Luliang Chemical Industry and its subsidiary in the Yunnan Province, China for environmental pollution allegedly caused by the discharge of their waste, which resulted in extraordinary high rates of cancer among local residents. Proceedings are ongoing. 



On 19 September 2011, Friends of Nature and Chongqing Green Volunteer Union, two environmental NGOs in China, filed a lawsuit against Luliang Chemical Industry and its subsidiary, Peace Technology, in the Intermediate Court of Qujing in Yunnan Province for environmental pollution allegedly caused by the discharge of their chromium-contaminated waste, which resulted in extraordinary high ratio of cancer sufferers among local residents.  Experts on environmental law in China regard this case as a landmark and the first environmental public interest lawsuit filed by NGOs in China.

The plaintiffs maintain that the companies have joint liability for the contamination caused by the discharge of the waste.  The plaintiffs argue that the two defendants should eliminate the environmental hazard by discontinuing the illegal storage of chromium-contaminated waste, compensating for the environmental damage and establishing a special fund to pay for environmental remediation.

Luliang Chemical Industry stated that its goal was to solve the environmental problems in cooperation with the plaintiffs, but that, given the historical reasons for the local chromium pollution, it would not assume liability for the full cost of the damage.  A chemical factory established in 1989 in Luliang had, according to Luliang Chemical Industry, stored 284,400 tons of chromium-contaminated waste prior to being acquired by Luliang Chemical Industry in 2003.

On 19 October 2011 the case was accepted by the court, and a local governmental agency, the Qujing Environmental Protection Bureau, who had been a third party, was added to the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

In 2012, the parties entered into mediation presided over by the court, and in December 2012 they reached an agreement.  According to the agreement, the defendants would remediate the already-polluted sites within a defined timeframe, treat their chromium-contaminated waste to reduce its toxicity before discharging it, and cease discharging it in the future.  However, on 18 April 2013 the court was informed of the defendants’ refusal to sign the mediation agreement, and the trial process resumed.  The proceedings are on-going.

Luliang Chemical Industry was previously held responsible for causing pollution from waste discharge by the Qilin District Court of Qujing.  It was found to have illegally discharged over 5000 tons of chromium-contaminated waste in Qujing, and to have stored 288,400 tons of chromium-contaminated waste in an open storage facility near Nanpanjiang River.  On 15 May 2012 seven people, including employees and contractors of Luliang Chemical Industry, were found guilty by the Qilin District Court of Qujing for illegally discharging chromium-contaminated waste.

- “Cadmium pollution in Yunnan reopens debate over public interest litigation”, Zhang Chun, China Dialogue, 15 Jul 2013
- “Talks Begin in Landmark NGO Environment Case”,Cao Yin & Guo Anfei,China Daily,24 May 2012

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15 July 2013

Cadmium Pollution in Yunnan Reopens Debate over Public Interest Litigation [China]

Author: Zhang Chun, China Dialogue

After two years China’s first public interest lawsuit brought by NGOs [against Heping Technology and Luliang Chemicals for allegedly dumping 5,000 tonnes of cadmium waste in Luliang county] still has no result…Because the NGOs were unable to cover the high costs of appraising the harm done, the two parties opted for pre-trial mediation...[It] led legal experts to reconsider China’s public interest lawsuits…Hu Jing, a deputy professor…advocates learning from the US. He said that if, as in the US, lawsuits were brought by the environmental authorities, the collection of evidence and appraisals would be much easier and more forceful…The US Environmental Protection Agency…sues polluters [and] oversees clean-up…[In China] it seems difficult for the Ministry of Environmental Protection to bring cases…as “becoming the plaintiff indicates they have failed in their duties,.”.. [T]he new environmental public interest lawsuits tend to be about compensation for harm done, rather than removal of pollution and restoration of the environment...[Also refers to PPG]

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24 May 2012

Talks begin in landmark case [China]

Author: Cao Yin & Guo Anfei, China Daily

Lawsuit could mark first time NGOs file public litigation on environment [in China]…The three plaintiffs - Friends of Nature, Chongqing Green Volunteers Union and the Qujing city environmental protection bureau - exchanged evidence with Luliang Chemical Industry, the defendant…said Chang Cheng…of Friends of Nature…Luliang Chemical Industry is accused of discharging more than 5,000 metric tons of highly toxic heavy metal in three townships of Qujing…in 2011. The company did not comment on the case...

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16 January 2012

China cancer village tests law against pollution

Author: Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters

Nothing in Wu Wenyong’s rural childhood hinted he would end up on a hospital bed aged 15, battling two kinds of cancer…3 km…from Wu’s home stands a three-story high hill of chromium slag produced from the Yunnan Luliang Peace Technology Company. The runoff from chromium-6, listed as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, seeped into the Nanpan, turning its waters yellow…[A] coalition of environmental advocacy groups, who have filed a public interest lawsuit for residents of Xiaoxin and nearby Xinglong in a special environment court…The groups want the privately owned company to establish a 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) compensation fund for an environmental clean-up…The company declined Reuters’ request for an interview… In September, the local government arrested five people for the dumping and ordered the company to halt production of chromium and sodium dichromate...Li said he was “cautiously optimistic” about prospects for victory in the Qujing case — which he said he had raised in his discussions with the government.

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22 October 2011

Yunnan chemical plant is treating waste, not producing: official [China]

Author: Want China Times [Taiwan]

Officials in southern China have denied reports that [Heping] chemical plant which was ordered to shut down after heavy metal waste killed dozens of farm animals had resumed operations…The plant suspended its production in August by order of the Ministry of Environmental Protection...The company started detoxifying hazardous chromium residues in late September and will begin operations in a second waste processing facility in the first half of 2012, according to China Daily…[T]he chromium-contaminated waste has still been piled around the site without safeguards against seepage and has thus threatened water and soil... Xinhua reported that the plant had apparently started up again according to local residents and its own reporters, triggering speculation that it had resumed production in defiance of its ban…

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