Coke bequeaths cadmium

Plachimada plant's sludge, nearby wells poisoned

Published: Sunday 31 July 2005

the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (kspcb), on July 1, 2005, announced the detection of high cadmium content in the effluents of Coca-Cola's plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district. The soft drinks major is already fighting a legal battle over groundwater exploitation by the plant, which is currently not functional. The detection of the heavy metal, a probable carcinogen which also affects human kidneys and lungs, could further weaken its case.

The Kerala High Court (hc) had ordered the plant's closure on March 9, 2004, in a case filed by the Perumatty gram panchayat. But the hc lifted the closure on April 7, 2005, after imposing certain conditions. This order was based on an expert committee's report on the quantum of groundwater that can be drawn without causing groundwater depletion in the area(see Down To Earth, 'Coke High', May 15, 2005). But the company has not been able to resume its operations till now since the 'consent to operate' order, issued by the kspcb had expired.

Now, through its July 1 order, the board has refused to renew the consent, objecting to the unexplained presence of cadmium in the plant's sludge and the nearby wells. "Cadmium was found in concentrations in the range of 200 to 300 milligramme per kilogramme in the sludge from your effluent treatment plant. The observed concentration is much above the tolerance/permissible limit for hazardous wastes, which categorically establishes that cadmium bearing raw materials are used in the production process or effluent treatment... Your application does not contain the particulars of the source of cadmium and is therefore incomplete," reads the kspcb order.

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