The Ministry of Environment notified Hyundai Oilbank that it would impose a fine of 150.9 billion won by holding it responsible for unauthorized discharge of wastewater, it was confirmed on Jan. 5.
It is the highest penalty ever for violating environmental-related laws, about one-third of Hyundai Oilbank's 2021 net profit (449.6 billion won).
Hyundai Oilbank has been under investigation by the Ministry of Environment and the Uijeongbu District Prosecutors' Office over the past year on charges of sending factory wastewater containing harmful substances to its subsidiaries through pipes and using it as industrial water.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Hyundai Oilbank, Hyundai Oilbank sent 950 tons of wastewater a day from its Daesan plant in Seosan, Chungcheongnam-do, to its nearby subsidiary Hyundai OCI plant from October 2019 to December 2021, which was used as industrial water.
The problem is that this wastewater contained more than the standard level of certain water harmful substances (phenols). It is a violation of the Water Environment Conservation Act (Article 38) to discharge water pollutants that are a factor of water pollution without going through wastewater treatment plants.
The Ministry of Environment and the Uijeongbu District Prosecutors' Office reportedly applied a law clause that imposes fines of "within 5% of sales" considering the act of sending wastewater to its subsidiary as "discharge."
The Ministry of Environment recently gave a preliminary notice to Hyundai Oilbank, and will soon announce the results of the joint investigation with the prosecution and officially notify the amount of the penalty.
However, Hyundai Oilbank is resentful, saying, "We recycled industrial water in a situation where there was a shortage of water, and we have never discharged wastewater without permission or polluted the environment."