SIPCOT air remains dangerously polluted, New Bucket sample shows
SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors
C/o 27 Abdul Khader Street, Manjakuppam, Cuddalore 607 001
Cuddalore 17 December 2004:
SIPCOT air remains dangerously polluted despite Supreme Court
Monitoring Committee’s (SCMC) order directing the TN PCB to clean up
the industries or shut down violators after December 31, according to
results of a new scientific study. A bucket sample taken downwind of
Tantech Agro Chemicals by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors
(SACEM) on 30 October, 2004, contained eight volatile organic and
sulphur compounds, including chemicals that are known to cause cancer
in animals. SACEM reported a gas leak at Tantech between 8 and 9 p.m.
on 30 October. Eachangadu residents said they experienced a strong
odour of burning mosquito coil and ammonia, and many suffered from
severe headache, and throat and skin irritation.
The air in the
residential area behind Tantech near Eachangadu village was found to
contain carbon disulphide, bromomethane, trichloroethene, 4-methyl
2-pentanone, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, 2-butanone and toluene.
Trichloroethene and Bromomethane cause cancers of lung, kidney, stomach
and liver in animals. All 8 chemicals cause one or more of the symptoms
reported, namely headache, and skin and throat irritation. Four
chemicals exceeded USEPA standards for ambient air quality.
Trichlorethene – a chemical that targets heart, liver, kidneys and the
respiratory system – was found at more than 418 times above USEPA
The sample was
taken barely 15 days after a Central Pollution Control Board team from
Bangalore conducted a three-day air sampling following up on SCMC’s
directions. Because the CPCB
was conducted in cooperation with the industry, none of the industries
were functioning normally on the days of sampling. SACEM conduced 5
pollution patrols of SIPCOT to assess the intensity of odour between 12
October and 13 October, 2004. Four out of five patrols reported "no
odour" and "factories not operating." The odour resumed and was
reported to be "mild but noticeable" during the pollution patrol on 13
October at around 8 p.m. Reports of the patrol were communicated to the
At least 7
serious violations of environmental regulations were documented by
SACEM, of which 6 were reported to the TNPCB. On 4 October, fishermen
reported an oily layer and black effluents in Uppanar near Victory
Chemicals. On 14 and 15 October, fisher folk sustained skin injuries
after entering the Uppanar near Kudikadu. On 29 October, a toxic gas
leak – that smelled of rotten eggs -- reportedly from SPIC Mitocon
caused severe headache and nausea among numerous Eachangadu residents.
On December 3, Victory Chemicals dumped 100 lorry loads of toxic wastes
in Cuddalore New Town.
The TNPCB has
been more responsive than in the past to complaints. However, it has
sought to downplay the problems reported without presenting any
scientific evidence. Eachangadu villagers’ complaints of nausea,
vomiting and headache after exposure to toxic gas reportedly from SPIC
Mitocon on 29 October were dismissed by the TNPCB engineer as "mass
Control Board needs to trust people more, and realise that they are
there to protect the people, not the industries. Currently, it is
friendly with the industry and sees people as enemies or troublemakers.
This attitude has to change if pollution is to be brought under
control," SACEM said.
SACEM has demanded that:
- the CPCB should involve SACEM in monitoring the pollution;
- the Government should abandon plans of setting up new hazardous units such as Pandian Chemicals in SIPCOT;
- the Pollution Control Board should use science as a basis for its explanations on pollution incidents to villagers;