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CUSECS shut down after the death of a worker; effluents overflow in SIPCOT

Cuddalore 12 June 2006: All the effluent collection stations of CUSECS in SIPCOT Cuddalore were shut down today by striking workers who were demanding compensation for the death of their co-worker. 33 year old Kathavarayan. Kathavarayan, a worker in CUSECS IV, succumbed to leukemia last evening after a futile fight against the disease for more than a year. He had worked at the effluent collection and forwarding facility for more than four years. With assistance from Rotary Club, Kathavarayan had undergone a few months of treatment. But that assistance stopped shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer at the Cancer Institute in Chennai. Employee State Insurance hospitals that run on contributions paid by workers and matched by the State and the Government have been set up expressly to render assistance to workers and their families. Also, the Insurance is meant to compensate injured workers and pay pension to those unable to work for a living. However, neither the company -- CUSECS Ltd -- nor the contractor have approached the ESI to secure medical assistance or compensation for the worker.

Other CUSECS workers suspect that the disease was caused by the unsafe working conditions and high levels of pollution in the facility. The striking workers are demanding better working conditions and safety equipment. The strike led to an overflow of effluents from the CUSECS pumping stations. SIPCOT Area Community Environment Monitors who were on the spot said the effluents from CUSECS 3 and 6 were overflowing into the River Uppanar.

The TNPCB arrived promptly upon being notified by the Monitors, and operated the pump to empty the overflowing effluents into the sea. SACEM has pressed for action against CUSECS and is urging the authorities to ensure that the worker's family is adequately compensated.

An air sample taken from CUSECS by Monitors found seven chemicals, including at least four chemicals that exceeded levels considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Hydrogen Sulphide was found 874 times higher than safe levels. Methylene Chloride, a carcinogen, was more than 900 times above USEPA screening levels. Trichloroethene, another carcinogen, was present at more than 700 times above safe levels.

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