Smoke from Abandoned Factory Affects Commuters, By-standers

CUDDALORE, 9 December, 2010 -- Community Environmental Monitors detected and reported thick smoke with a strong smell of sulphur from the abandoned Coromandel Indag pesticide factory in SIPCOT Cuddalore. The incident, which was reported at around 9.30 a.m. was finally brought under control by the Fire Service at 11 a.m. Commuters on the East Coast Road and some bystanders reported intense eye irritation and a suffocating feeling. The Pollution Control Board was notified, though no officers were available at the time to visit. This is the second incident of fire in the abandoned factory where toxic wastes are known to be improperly stored for more than a decade. On May 20, 2006, a similar incident in the evening sent one woman to the hospital. The Fire Service took more than 6 hours to control the fire on that occassion. An air sample taken by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors at the time revealed unsafe levels of hydrogen sulphide, carbonyl sulphide, carbon disulphide and trichloroethene. A representation was made immediately to the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board and the District Administration to secure the factory. Preparedness for chemical emergencies is the responsibility of the District Administration. The fact that the factory remains as unsafe as ever four years after a major incident indicates the seriousness with which the District Administration and the Pollution Control Board view safety and disaster mitigation.