China is now requiring major polluting companies to send their emissions data to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. But in order to avoid fines, some polluters have found ways to tamper with monitoring facilities, hoping to make enforcement impossible.
The Qingdao Thermal Power Plant in eastern China suspended its desulfuration facility in 2008 and this past June, the company demolished the environmentally friendly device in order to save costs. But a different monitoring device still monitors data on sulfur dioxide automatically.
"I told them we shut down the desulfuration facility. Now the problem is the monitoring company," Head of Qingdao Thermal Power Plant said.
According to the regulations, a third party will be introduced to monitor the plant’s pollutants emission. "Yuxing" is the company in charge of the power plant’s monitoring device. But Yuxing itself was tampering with the device’s data.
"I think there are problems with how the devices send its data. The devices are quite old. The problem may stem from the machine itself," Technician with Yuxing Technology Com., said.
"The ministry introduced the idea of automatic monitoring devices. But there are still complex ways to manipulate the data," Zou Shoumin, director of Ministry Of Environmental Protection, said.
This kind of behavior is not unusual among polluters. Capital Steel Corporation in Beijing was also found to have opened extra bypasses for untreated pollutants, even though the ministry repeatedly requested polluters to close these bypasses. By closing these bypasses, the ministry would be able to better monitor the corporation’s emission levels.
"The desulferation facilities are being bypassed, meaning the untreated pollutants are released into the air directly. This could send a large volume of PM2.5 particles into the air," Ma Jun, head of Beijing Public Environment Research Center, said.
Experts say the penalty for tampering with data is only 50,000 yuan. Such a low fine and the desire for profits are the main reasons for this fraudulent behaviour.