Chennai, 16 April 2012: 19 chemicals were detected in the air breathed by Kodungaiyur residents during a fire in the dump yard that lasted more than two days. The findings were from an air sample taken on March 12, 2012, 50 metres downwind of the dump yard, by Community Environmental Monitoring and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives at the request of Kodungaiyur residents.
Of the remaining 19 chemicals identified, most are known to target the Central Nervous and Respiratory systems. Three of the 19 chemicals 1-3 Butadiene, Chloromethane and Benzene are carcinogens. Two of the carcinogens, 1-3 Butadiene and Benzene they were found 8.5 times and 50 times above levels considered safe for long term exposure by the US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) respectively.
The concentration of the chemical Acrolein was 12.4 times higher than the levels considered safe by the USEPA even for short-term exposures. Such high levels can cause immediate effects including irritation of repiratory tracts. Prolonged exposure to such high levels or exposure can cause more severe effects including pulmonary oedema (fluid accumulation in the air spaces of the lungs), lung haemorrhage (acute bleeding from the lungs), and death.
Residents said dump yard fires were a frequent occurrence in Kodungaiyur. Between April 2010 and April 2011, residents sent 36 complaints by fax and internet to various agencies including the Chennai Corporation, the TNPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) complaining about fires at the dumpyard spewing toxic smoke onto the residential localities.
Interestingly, these complaints were made following the January 2010 order of the Madras High Court directing the Chennai Corporation and TNPCB to prevent burning of garbage in the yard. Hence, the data from the air sample will be used by residents in the contempt petition being filed in the Madras High Court.
The Kodungaiyur dumping ground is part of a 400 acre marshland adjacent to the Kodungaiyur sewage treatment plant on the southern margins of flood prone alluvial lowlands of Korattalaiyar River. The area is primarily residential.
The Kodungaiyur dump officially receives garbage from 12 of 15 Corporation zones, making it the largest dumping site in the city. The Corporation is officially allotted 65 acres but the residents claim that 350 of the 400 acre site are illegally used for dumping. Metro Water and Corporation of Chennai jointly own the land. The municipal waste dumping in Kodungaiyur began in 1989. Prior to this, the land was used to grow cattle fodder.
For further information contact:
Community Environmental Monitoring
H16/9, Seevakan Street, Kalakshetra Colony,
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600090
Ph – +91 80560 24315
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