Cuddalore, 17 October 2007: SIPCOT residents reported a fire from Arkema Peroxides premises at about 10:30 am yesterday. According to the eye witnesses there were flames up to 30 feet high from behind the unit, with intense black and whitish smoke. There was a faint plastic burning odour too. As soon as the fire broke out the emergency alarm of the unit rang and lasted for about 15 minutes till the fire was extinguished.
The local residents immediately reported this incident to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) officials. Even though the matter was urgent the TNPCB officials refused to visit the site initially. Without even a site visit the TNPCB dismissed the complaint and informed the SACEM monitors that they had inquired about the incident over the phone with the neighbouring industries like Pandian Chemicals and Chemplast and no one reported any such incident. After intense public pressure TNPCB officials were forced to visit the site at about 6 pm and officials claim to have found nothing at the site.
This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in Arkema. The unit is known to burn its entire batch that may have gone wrong behind its premises often. This has been reported to the TNPCB in the past but there has been no significant action taken on the unit to ensure that this is not repeated. What is more shocking is the dismissive attitude of the TNPCB officials who are in-charge of the monitoring of the environment and industries. Without even visiting the site they seem to take decisions from their offices and on the basis of information gathered from industries who are usually the violators.