7,000 litres of oil in Sutlej

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Sunday 31 May 2009

Aquatic life safe, tests underway

on april 24, 7,000 litres of heavy furnace oil leaked into the Sutlej river after a pipeline burst at the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Power Plant at Ropar in Punjab.

A senior plant official said the welding in the pipeline could have given way due to heat and fatigue. Water samples collected by the Punjab Pollution Control Board found oil and grease content in the river but they found little damage to aquatic life.

Water samples at a distance of five km from the plant had oil and grease content of 10mg/l.

"Though the permissible level of plant discharge is 10 mg/l, the river should have none," said Karunesh Garg, environmental engineer with the pollution control board. The dissolved oxygen level, after the spill, was found at 7 mg/l which is safe for river ecology.

The Central Pollution Control Board too collected water samples and conducted bio-monitoring test at the Salim Ali Ornithological Park, 10 km from the plant. A senior scientist with the board said there were no severe damages and that fish were still visible. The reason, he said, was the plant had scooped out the oil in time.

Jaspreet singh, a bird watcher in Ropar, said, "The spill could be detrimental for birds. The officials are not realizing it now," said Singh.

Garg said the incident showed the plant's maintenance was poor. He added that pipeline checks were beyond the ambit of the board and was the responsibility of the plant officials.

The senior plant official acknowledged a regular ultrasonic testing of welds could have helped detect a weak bend and avert the accident.

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