Chemplast Sanmar caught dumping waste into River Kaveri

Mettur, 12 March 2009: A tanker carrying toxic effluents from Chemplast Sanmar was caught on 11 March while discharging its contents into a water-body in Mettur by villagers, and handed over to the Karumalaikoodal Police Station. Chemplast's four plants in Mettur do not have a license to operate from the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. Based on a worker tip-off that Chemplast was routinely dumping tanker loads of acidic effluent in local canals, farmers from the Gonur West Agriculturists Development Union tracked one of the tankers, and apprehended it at the PMV Service Centre in SIDCO area, near Thangamapuripatnam. The tanker was caught as soon as it began letting out a yellow-coloured liquid with a strong acidic odour into a pit filled with sand and stones. “There is zero truth in Chemplast's claims that it is moving towards “zero discharge.” The effluents discharged by the tanker will eventually end up in the Kaveri, from where TWAD pumps out water for drinking,” said G. Madeshwaran of GWADU.

The police from the Karumalaikudal station arrived immediately on being alerted. The tanker was seized and taken to the police station. A complaint has been filed with the police by the Farmers Association. The Assistant Environmental Engineer, Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board, who arrived at the spot at 11.30 p.m. investigated the matter and took samples of the waste that had stagnated in the pit. “The pH meter showed that the substance was highly acidic with a ph of 1.5”, said Manimaran, AEE, Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. However, he was prohibited from taking samples of the contents of the lorry in the police station by a constable on duty. On investigating at the Chemplast Sanmar Plant 1, the Assistant Engineer found that the gate pass made for the tanker at 1.45 p.m. mentioned Hydrochloric acid as the contents of the tanker and stated that the tanker was headed to Sadasivam Chemicals, Small Industry Development Corporation (SIDCO), Mettur.

According to the Assistant Engineer, both Sadasivam Chemicals and Chemplast Sanmar Plant 1 do not have valid consents from the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board to operate. Additionally, none of the other four plants owned by Chemplast Sanmar in Mettur have valid consents to operate.

Just in the last year, at least 6 incidents – including fish kills downstream of Chemplast's effluent discharge in Kaveri, gas leaks and accidents – have been reported from Chemplast's premises. The fact that these dangerous incidents are happening from unlicensed facilities highlights the extent to which district administration, police, regulators and political leaders are working in connivance with the company.

"Though we complain to the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board about these incidents they do not seem to take any action to remedy the situation and punish the offenders. Lack of any punitive action sets an example for violators. We demand that at least in this case, company officials be prosecuted for violating the Environmental Protection Act.", said G. Madeshwaran.