Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (May 29, 2020)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 29 May 2020

LG Polymers lacked experience in monitoring styrene

The lack of experience of LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd in monitoring and maintaining full tanks of styrene that were idled for several weeks without operation, was the main reason behind the Visakhapatnam gas leak of May 7, 2020.

This is according to the report of the National Green Tribunal (NGT)-appointed joint monitoring committee.

One of the tanks in the industrial unit at the gas leak site, M6, was old in design terms. It did not have temperature sensors in the middle and on the top surface. This caused it to leak.

Mitigation measures could have been more effective had the chillers servicing Tank M6 been running. They were switched off at 5 pm earlier that evening according to routine site practice as ambient night temperatures required little or no chilling.

There was also no automated sprinkler arrangement for vapour loss as this had never been anticipated. The fire water sprinklers had to be manually activated.

Another reason for the accident was that TBC (inhibitor of the polymerization reaction) was not effective after liquid styrene temperature in storage rose to above 52 degrees Celsius.

Under these conditions, a short-stopper chemical should have been added. But LG Polymers did not consider this possibility.

The report by the NGT-appointed committee was filed on May 28, after members visited the gas leakage site along with Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board officials and interacted with company officials.

On May 12, the committee conducted a public consultation meeting with non-profits, residents from affected villages and industrialists.

The report was written by Justice B Seshasayana Reddy, former judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court

Environmental compliance

The NGT on May 26 directed the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and the district collector of Jharsuguda to look into the pollution caused by M / s Jai Hanuman Udyog Pvt Ltd and file a report.

The matter related to disposal of coal ash into the ash pond by the industry engaged in manufacture of pig iron, sponge iron, basic steel and iron for which, the essential fuel used was coal.

The complainant, Bijay Mishra, said that even though the land on which the ash pond was located was owned by the company, the distance of the ash pond from a neighbouring village was just about 300-400 metres.

It was further alleged that the coal ash from the ash pond had been contaminating ground water. One of the pollutants contaminating the soil and the ground water was found to be arsenic, the quantity of which was stated to be increasing every year.

Ash dust discharged from the unit and its surroundings had been polluting the air and would also settle on the plants and leaves of the trees, damaging the vegetation of the area.

White ash dust was also found to have settled on the houses of the villagers, their clothes, trees, fruits, crops, water and even in their food, which has resulted in the villagers suffering from serious respiratory and other illness.

Air being polluted by the emissions from the industrial unit was due to the company’s failure to install advanced technology for filtration and suppression of dust, the tribunal was told.

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