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Concern over chemical storage in shut down unit

4 August 2011

Special Correspondent
The Hindu

Workers, social activists and environmentalists have voiced concern over the safety of the “idle storage of ammonium and chloroform in two tanks” in the recently shut down SPIC Pharma unit located on the SIPCOT Industrial Estate here.

The workers claim that the chemicals are flammable and would even cause explosion when leak occurs in the tanks. In such a case, they fear, it would pose a severe health hazard to the people living in the surrounding areas.

Executive secretary of the Consumer Federation Tamil Nadu M.Nizamudeen said that the common problem noticed in the closed units in the industrial estate was non-clearance of the chemical vestiges and unscientific disposal of chemical waste that were causing intermittent fire, emitting strong stench.

He opined that the officials did not seem to have evolved any solution for the safe disposal of the left-over chemicals. Moreover, the personnel of the Fire Service and Rescue Department were ill-equipped to handle the fire in a chemical unit. Therefore, the anxiety over the impending threat from unattended chemicals was really palpable among the residents, Mr Nizamudeen said.

When contacted, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials said that the storage of chemicals did not come under their purview. The Board was dealing with pollution aspects caused by the effluents and on the preventive measures.

The SPIC Pharma sources said that the unit stopped production about 18 months ago and all these days the tanks were very much there. The sources denied storage of chemicals in the tanks and added that what was left was only vapour that could not be sucked through pipeline but would have to be cleared through opening the lid

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