The Chinese photovoltaic module manufacturer has said that before its plant can re-open, it will install new measures to prevent future fluoride leaks into the surrounding environment.
Tomorrow, September 23, an unnamed, yet reportedly authorized and licensed agency is expected to visit the plant in order to finalize the companys new environmental plans, which include building a wall around the companys facilities.
"We are planning to execute the required improvement plans designed by an independent third party agency approved by the government in the form of a wall that will fence our facilities from the water channel further preventing any accidental discharge into the channel. We expect completion of this wall in about one month," said Sam Chang, JinkoSolar CFO.
He added that the company has also isolated the polluted water channel section, and treated the affected water and soil, in addition to building a water collection system around the warehouse where solid fluoride waste is stored, and extending the outdoor warehouse area.
Furthermore, it intends to invite representatives for the neighboring village to come and speak with JinkoSolar management on a regular basis.
Once the environmental plans have been approved, which should take around two to three days to complete, the local government is then expected to sign a certificate indicating that JinkoSolar is ready to start production again. There is currently no date on the cards though.
Chang emphasized that although production in Haining is still at a standstill, it will still be able to fully meet its order obligations. It is not clear, however, how the 3,000 employees at the plant will be affected.
In a statement released, it was said, "The company believes that sufficient tolling capacity exists in the East China region to permit the Company to continue to fill customer orders. If the Haining plant operation remains suspended, the possible use of tolling services may somewhat increase the Company’s non-silicon production costs until the plant reopens."
In terms of clearing up details, which have been inaccurately reported, Chang said that JinkoSolar has only been operating at its Haining facility since September 2009, instead of the reported five years.
Furthermore, apart from one incident on May 11, he said the company has never been informed by Haining Water Monitoring Department of a fluoride leak into the water channel in question, which has been described as being "three to five meters wide and half a meter deep, and mostly stagnant." However, on May 11, the company did release fluoride into the environment during the trial operations for its 100 megawatt (MW) expansion phase.
As a consequence of this, JinkoSolar received a notice from the local environmental bureau informing it of higher than acceptable levels of fluoride in its waste water sent through the municipal sewer system on May 11. It was issued with a penalty of 470,00 RMB. "We appealed this decision and on August 7 the fine was withdrawn," said Chang, who added, "On September 17, the local environmental bureau issued a new penalty notice for the same amount."
With regards to the incident which led to the plants closure, JinkoSolar said that its contracted waste management company, which picked up the solid fluoride waste from the companys module manufacturing operations every three days, stopped its collection on August 20.
It took JinkoSolar a reported six days to secure a new waste management company, which could come and collect its fluoride waste. In the interim period, the company stored its waste in a dedicated warehouse. This, however, only has enough capacity for four days of waste. Therefore, after this, the company transferred the extra waste into bins outside its warehouse.
"We suspect that heavy rains on August 24 and 25 caused some waste to leak out to the nearby water channel via the drainage systems on the factory compound, which might be the cause of possible fluoride content that may have caused the deaths of the fish in the channel," continued Chang.
He added, "On or about September 5, rumors started to circulate on the internet, including postings of photos of dead fish. On September 5, we because aware of the incident and promptly started to take action to clean up the environment in compliance with the local government recommendations."
In terms of compensation, Chang said that Jinko will pay compensation for any harvest shortfall, as well as for the death of any livestock and wildlife arising from the pollution, "even though we have no proof of our responsibility".
He added that there is no evidence that anyone has died or fallen ill due to the accidental release of fluoride.