Carcinogens found in effluents leaking from company's PVC plant in Mettur
Twice in the past five months, residents near Mettur in Tamil Nadu have noticed liquid seeping from under the compound wall of Chemplast Sanmar’s PVC plant into the drain running alongside the wall. There was a terrible smell coming from the drain. The recent rains had flushed out the effluent and due to the gradient, the effluent flooded some fields that had been freshly planted with millets. Residents took water samples both times from the drain. The results from the samples taken in May show high levels of chemicals including carcinogens in the water.
The drain leads into a canal which eventually connects to the Kaveri river, a major source of drinking water and irrigation in central Tamil Nadu. But Chemplast Sanmar says it’s Mettur unit follows zero liquid discharge (ZLD) norm, which means no liquid effluent leaves the premises. ZLD systems have been working since September 2009, says the company. It has won awards in 2010 from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for its water management.
The community however says this munificence is because Chemplast has already contaminated the ground and surface water in the area, making it unfit for drinking. “The river is so contaminated that calves die after drinking the water, dead fish keep floating up in large numbers. Yet this water is supplied to a large area. Even Salem will receive this water now,” says T M Ganesan, a farmer and resident of Thippampatti, located close to the PVC unit. A salt dump in the company’s land has leached into the groundwater, making all the wells in the villages highly saline. “Farming is difficult now but we cant leave our lands so we struggle along, earning what we can from coolie work,” adds Ganesan. “The salt godown has been there since the company began operations in 1936. With the salinity increasing, water in Saraikaadu is unusable,” adds Jayaraman.
The farmers association in the area, the West Gonur Farmers Welfare Association, has filed complaints with the Loss of Ecology Authority (in 2006) to get compensation for farmland destroyed by effluent discharge. They also have cases pending before the Madras High Court (in 2002) and the now defunct National Environment Appellate Authority (in 2008). “These are pending for several years now but we have not received any compensation or help. The cases are brought by people who can afford to take this route but for most of the 5,000 plus affected, the legal route is out of reach,” says Ganesan.
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