Published: Saturday 15 May 1993

-- Soon after the gas leak at Century Rayon's Thane plant, which took a toll of 10 dead and 125 injured, the company was issued a closure notice by the Maharashtra state environment ministry. The Birla-owned company flouted the notice for nearly one month, citing financial reasons. But a subsequent 72-hour, abatement notice from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has led plant officials to agree to suspend operations temporarily.

After analysing the plant's operational conditions, MPCB concluded there is prima facie evidence of negligence by the plant management.

The MPCB report indicts Century Rayon for illegally discharging highly concentrated hydrochloric acid into an adjoining drain, thereby adversely affecting people residing in nearby settlements. As a measure to prevent toxic discharges in future, MPCB has instructed the factory to build additional storage capacity in its spin bath unit, whose malfunctioning caused the gas to leak. The company has been asked also to increase the handling capacity of its effluent treatment plant and to furnish proof of intent within a specified time to lay a closed-conduit pipeline to carry effluents to a safe discharge point.

A Century Rayon spokesperson says work has already begun on the storage tank, but his loaded statement notes, "The other directives would take several months to comply with (but) we shall endeavour to prevail upon the government to allow operations to commence soon."

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