Contaminated alum in Mumbai's drinking water

Published: Saturday 15 March 2003

timely action by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation ( bmc) has led to the detection of 280 tonnes of contaminated alum in drinking water. Alum, used to purify the city's water, was contaminated with organic compounds such as chloroform and benzene. Both are carcinogenic in nature.

The polluted alum was found at Bhandup complex's water treatment plant. "Officials at the plant detected a strong odour in the substance and sent it for testing," reveals R K Bhatia, chief hydraulic engineer, bmc. The tests confirmed the presence of organic compounds and the entire consignment was rejected. Had the contaminated alum been used, it would have endangered the lives of 13 million Mumbai residents.

bmc has issued a notice to Sark Chemicals, the suppliers, and lodged a complaint against the company at the Mulund police station. "We are investigating," said Ravindra Patkar, senior inspector, Mulund. But Sark Chemicals has denied contamination. bmc officials say that it is possible that the alum was contaminated when manufactured. Mostly, recycled sulphuric acid is used to manufacture alum. If the used acid comes from a chlor-alkali industry, it is possible that it is contaminated. This was the first consignment of alum from the company, which has bagged a Rs 7-crore two-year contract to supply 32,000 tonnes of alum to bmc . n

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