What's happening inside disposal units?
Enforcement and monitoring are the key to safety
Having tsfds and guidelines in place does not mean the waste has been taken care of. As the beil accident showed, cpcb's guidelines that existed before the new ones, like mandatory labelling of drums, were not enforced.
"A disaster is waiting to happen at any of these facilities. None of them is following the guidelines for fire fightng," said a cpcb official who did not want to be identified. "Unless we issue them directions nothing will happen. But directions have to come from the top."
Technically, organic hazardous waste with a calorific value above 2,500 kilocalorie per kg is to be incinerated because it cannot be recycled, reused or safely dumped in a landfill. Waste oil, spent solvents, waste from pesticide, pharmaceutical and refinery units falls in this category.The calorific value of the waste affects the temperature in the incinerator, therefore to maintain the right temperature the waste has to be mixed in the right proportion. But is incineration being done as per rules?
At Nandesari industrial complex in Vadodara, the incinerator was emitting black smoke and was switched off when the Down To Earth team entered its premises. gpcb reports in June 2007 observed only liquid, not solid, waste was being fed into the gepil incinerator in Surat. "Solid waste has to be combined with liquid waste before incineration. It needs more secondary fuel (like light diesel) to burn which is expensive, so probably tsdf operators delay burning it," said Shyam R Asolekar, head of the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering at iit Bombay. "It is very difficult to know if they are dumping the incinerable solid waste as well in the landfill. Who can check?" asked Sheikh of Brackish Water Research Centre. cpcb officials say they can't be present inside a tsdf 24 hours.
Ideally, dioxins, furans, heavy metals like mercury, a neurotoxin, and other ambient air parameters should be monitored at the incinerator chimney at least once in six months (see Check it). But only sulphur and nitrogen dioxides and particulate matter are checked regularly because there is not enough facility to check other parameters. Even after the beil fire, dioxins and furans were not measured in the air, for lack of facility, while air samples for checking heavy metals had to be sent to a private lab in Mumbai. "Now we have set up a Trace Organics Lab at the cpcb head office in Delhi, where we can test emissions for dioxins and furans," said a board official. Testing one sample for dioxins or furans in Belgium costs Rs 40,000.
Emission standards for incinerators
|* Only in special cases **Toxic equivalence is chlorine concentration of a particular dioxin or furan; Source CPCB|
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