'Chemical firm polluting Cauvery'
13 Mar 2009
ISTSALEM: Environmental activists here allege that the lives of people could be endangered after the discharge of concentrated hydrochloric acid (HCL) into the Cauvery River by a lorry on Wednesday night. A citizen watchdog group caught the act red-handed and took up the matter with the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the local police. Some of the members of the West Gonur Farmers’ Association had followed a lorry carrying a load of liquid pulled out from plant 1 of Chemplast Sanmar Ltd in Mettur where Merton, a refrigerant, is manufactured. At the automobile service centre at the SIDCO industrial estate in Mettur, under the pretext of washing the vehicle, the lorry allegedly let out the liquid into a nearby channel that joins the Cauvery River at MGR Bridge near which the Salem Corporation has its drinking water pumping station. The residents of the area have been complaining of several diseases caused by the toxic effluents discharged by industrial units in the region, the association alleged. When the members of the citizens watchdog group checked the way bill of the lorry they found that the load was consigned by the Chemplast Sanmar Ltd plant 1 to Sadhasivam Chemicals, an unit in the SIDCO industrial estate, and the load was defined as HCL. The matter was conveyed to the police and the TNPCB. The TNPCB deputed an assistant engineer to investigate the complaint, who after conducting a spot test found the pH reading of 1.5, which suggests that the acid content at the place of discharge was quite high. As the concentration was high and the liquid thick, the GDS meter did not work and hence he could not do the second level of spot analysis, the official told The New Indian Express.The TNPCB added that he could not compare the field sample with that of the contents in the lorry because the police did not allow it. The lorry was taken to the Karumalaikoodal Police Station following the complaint. The TNPCB’s top official in the region said that: "A few bottles of soil samples have been taken for conducting a laboratory test, which will reveal the chemical discharged into the river, its concentration and whether it is an effluent or a by-product. Suitable action in accordance with the provisions will be taken." The police flatly denied that there was any prima facie evidence to prove the complaint to be true. Hence, no case was booked, they said. The sub-inspector of the Karumalaikoodal police station said that the lorry was brought to the police station only to investigate the complaint.On the other hand, Piyush Sethia, organiser of Speak Out Salem, said that the police had been colluding with the company and had not booked any cases against them whenever a violation was reported.The company’s vice-president Hariharaputran told The New Indian Express that the West Gonur Farmer’s Association was a fringe group bent upon damaging the company’s image. On the alleged discharge of chemicals into the Cauvery, Hariharaputran said that concentrated HCL was sold to M/S Sadhasivam Chemicals, a trader in chemicals. "It is not known if the chemical leaked out while the lorry was being water serviced. It is highly unlikely, that the incident of letting off the entire tank was true," he said and flatly denied the charge that it was an effluent, saying, “Rs 6 crore had been invested to set up the state of the art effluent treatment and disposal systems in the company”.On environmental clearance, Hariharaputran said that there were many permits and not all the statutory clearances have expired. "The plant continues to operate with deemed permits. Deemed permits give the company leverage to operate till the compliances for renewal are met and the permits are renewed," he added
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