Tag Archives: industrial pollution

Stop Chemplast returning to Cuddalore: company indicted for careless and dangerous waste disposal wants to return to the heavily polluted SIPCOT site

CUDDALORE, July 26, 2005
Villagers living near the SIPCOT industrial estate near Cuddalore are fighting to prevent the return to the lethally polluted facility (see previous entry) of arch-polluter Chemplast.
Chemplast, the PVC manfacturer from Mettur, was driven out of Cuddalore in 2002. It went to Andhra. But Cuddalore villagers and activists got there earlier. They invited Andhra villagers to Mettur where Chemplast sits atop the Mettur Dam and discharges its wastes into the Cauveri river. The Andhra villagers went back determined not to let Chemplast anywhere near their homes. Nearly 5000 villagers turned up at the public hearing and drove the company out. Now Chemplast is back in Tamilnadu, trying to wriggle its way into Cuddalore. “Chemplast is desperate,” says activist Nityanand Jayaraman, “because this project will make or break its PVC business.”
To find out what you can do to support the Cuddalore villagers and to stop Chemplast, please visit http://www.sipcotcuddalore.com/
Sign the online petition here
PVC or polyvinyl chloride has massive environmental and human health costs. From its manufacture to its disposal, PVC emits toxic compounds. During the manufacture of the building block ingredients of PVC (such as vinyl chloride monomer) dioxin and other persistent pollutants are emitted into the air, water and land, which present both acute and chronic health hazards. During use, PVC products can leach toxic additives, for example flooring can release softeners called phthalates. When PVC reaches the end of its useful life, it can be either landfilled, where it leaches toxic additives or incinerated, again emitting dioxin and heavy metals. When PVC burns in accidental fires, hydrogen chloride gas and dioxin are formed.
Chennai, July 25: The Mettur Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, a panel constituted by activists, released a report in the city on Monday on the “indiscriminate disposal” of hazardous wastes by Chemplast Sanmar in Mettur near Salem district of Tamil Nadu.
The panel headed by Justice Akbar Basha Kadri, retired judge, Madras high court, which went on a three-day tour of the 35 villages surrounding Mettur between April 29 and May 1 this year, claimed that Chemplast Sanmar and MALCO have caused “irreparable damage” to the people and environment of the town.
Speaking to reporters here, Justice Kadri said the panel had met about 800 villagers and former employees of the two factories and were appalled by the health disorders the villagers were suffering from, allegedly because of the toxic effluents discharged by Chemplast with the consent of the state pollution board into the river Cauvery.
Many women had suffered miscarriages and children had lung disorders, while several residents were suffering from lung and stomach cancer. Due to handling mercury wastes, without gloves, some of the villagers’ hands had turned white and fingers had become crooked. Even the cattle and goats had died, he claimed.
R. Madeswaran, a villager from Mettur, alleged that the chemical release from Chemplast’s chlorine plant last year had caused severe damage to the health of children in the town and the villagers had spent a fortune on hospitals for treatment. He said that whey they lodged a complaint with the police, the authorities claimed that there was no leak. Mr. Kadri said that the agricultural land had become unfit for the cultivation of any crop. Even the water in the 15 wells they had surveyed had become brackish and was emitting a foul smell. The red mud dumped on the banks of the Stanley reservoir by MALCO Ltd could pose a threat to the rivers in the state by polluting them, according to the panel. Based on its findings, the panel has made a few recommendations like supply of clean water to the villagers, compensation for the damage to health and cattle and an immediate stop to the dumping of red mud, among others. The villagers do not want the factories to close down, but only follow the prescribed norms.
In response to the panel’s study, Chemplast issued a statement on Monday condemning the campaign as malicious. The company claimed that it has not violated the norms prescribed by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. The release said, that it did not manufacture many of the chemicals as claimed by the panel. Chemplast was not responsible for the death of any fish in river Cauvery and it had not discharged any smelly effluent into the river. It also said that the quantum of effluent discharge had come down from 4000 KL to 1500 KL per day.
The company has launched a programme to achieve zero discharge at Mettur at a cost of Rs. 20 crores. The treated solid waste generated in its plant was placed in secure landfills and there was no possibility of percolation of wastes from the pits to the adjacent sub-soil and water bodies, the company said.

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Dow tries to stifle historians who uncovered its secrets


Dow Chemical is leading a group ot twenty chemical giants in an all-out attack on two historians who have uncovered the sordid history of vinyl chloride production and its effects on health in the United States and Europe. Dow is the world’s largest producer of vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen.

Continue reading Dow tries to stifle historians who uncovered its secrets

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People breathing poison in Cuddalore

For the first time in India the air that people living near industries breathe has been tested for toxic gases. The results confirm local people’s worst fears, say Sipcot Community Health Monitors, who carried out the study under the direction of Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.

“In nine years I have seen at least 500 results from different places around the world,” says Larson. “SIPCOT, Cuddalore has to be the worst place to breathe, and certainly the worst that I have seen in terms of the kinds and levels of toxic gases in the air. The levels of some of the chemicals are at least 1000 times higher than what we saw in other developing countries like South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines.”

Said Shweta Narayan, coordinator of the Community Environmental Monitoring program, “Children, foetuses and pregnant women are most at risk of exposure. These chemicals can attack children at a very vulnerable stage of development and may, in cases, permanently damage their ability to fight diseases or their mental, physical and sexual development.”

New Report: SIPCOT, Cuddalore, A Global Toxic Hotspot for Air Pollution Toxic Air Monitoring a First for India – Using Community Monitors, Simple Buckets – Download the report here.

CUDDALORE, 17 September, 2004 — Samples of air that SIPCOT residents breathe were found to contain extremely high levels of at least 22 toxic chemicals, including 8 cancer-causing chemicals, according to a first of a kind report released by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors. Based on the results, the group has declared SIPCOT, Cuddalore a “Global Toxic Hotspot.” For the first time in India, the air that people living near industries breathe has been tested for toxic gases, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and sulphur compounds. The results of five samples taken outside Shasun, Tagros, CUSECS 5 and Asian Paints confirm the worst fears of the villagers that the frequent odour incidents they experience are indicators of chemical pollution from the factories. At least 13 chemicals found are used as raw material in SIPCOT industries.

The report justifies the SIPCOT villagers’ demands for continuous air monitoring, including for toxic gases, an aggressive air pollution elimination program, long-term health monitoring, specialised health care facilities for SIPCOT residents, and a ban on the setting up or expansion of any polluting facility in SIPCOT.

The report titled “Gas Trouble: Air Quality in SIPCOT, Cuddalore” was compiled using samples taken by Community Environmental Monitors from Semmankuppam, Sangolikuppam and Eachangadu villages. The monitors are specially trained in the use of the “Bucket” to take air samples, and in monitoring, reporting and acting on pollution or occupational injury incidents. The training in “Bucket” technology was conducted in March 2004 by Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor. Larson is one of the key persons involved in developing and testing the bucket.

“The Bucket results confirm that SIPCOT is a slow-motion Bhopal. For years, the Pollution Control Board and the Tamilnadu Government have ignored our complaints about nasty odours and our health problems,” said S. Ramanathan, a Community Environmental Monitor from Semmankuppam village. “If the Government fails to do anything even after finding out that the air we breathe has chemicals like benzene, carbon tetrachloride and chloroform, they will be telling the world that they don’t care if we live or die as long as the industries can operate profitably.”

At least 14 of the 22 chemicals, including trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, acrolein, methylene chloride and hydrogen sulphide, violate the US Environmental Protection Agency’s safety levels. 1,2-dichloroethane, a cancer-causing chemical that was found in an air sample taken downwind of Tagros Chemicals, exceeded safety levels by a factor of 22,973. Levels of hydrogen sulphide, a gas that smells of rotten eggs, in the air sample taken downwind of CUSECS Pump House No. 5 was 874 times the US EPA safety level.

“I have worked nine years with the bucket and seen at least 500 results from different places around the world. SIPCOT, Cuddalore has to be the worst place to breathe, and certainly the worst that I have seen in terms of the kinds and levels of toxic gases in the air,” said Larson. “The levels of some of the chemicals are at least 1000 times higher than what we saw in other developing countries like South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines.”

Despite the magnitude of the problem, not a single health study has been conducted till date in SIPCOT, Cuddalore. The Pollution Control Board does not monitor for toxic gases in the industrial estate, and what basic data it has on air pollution has never been released to public.

The findings of the report have very troubling implications particularly for women, children and old people who spend all their time within the polluted confines of SIPCOT.

“Children, foetuses and pregnant women are most at risk of exposure. These chemicals can attack children at a very vulnerable stage of development and may, in cases, permanently damage their ability to fight diseases or their mental, physical and sexual development,” said Shweta Narayan, coordinator of the Community Environmental Monitoring program.

Despite the demonstrated lack of capacity of the Pollution Control Board or the Health Department to understand the pollution problem and take action to protect public health, the Government is adding to the pollution load in SIPCOT by allowing more polluting units to come up.

Villagers from Semmankuppam and Sangolikuppam are very unhappy about the setting up of a new company, Pandian Chemicals, in SIPCOT Phase II. The company plans to manufacture 38 tonnes/month of Ammonium Perchlorate, a highly explosive chemical used in rocket fuel. The chemical is a problematic groundwater contaminant that is dangerous even at low levels to foetuses, young children and pregnant women. It can be passed on from mother to child through breast milk, and is known to attack the brain development of the child.

“The people don’t want Pandian Chemicals; the Panchayat doesn’t want it. The company manufactures a deadly explosive, and a chemical that is known to affect children’s health. If the Government cares for people, the project should be dropped. Only clean industries that can provide safe jobs to villagers should be allowed in SIPCOT,” said M. Nizamudeen of FEDCOT.

SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring is a project of FEDCOT, Cuddalore District Consumer Organisation, Global Community Monitor and The Other Media.

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Chlorine leak from rogue plant hospitalises 23

A chlorine leak at 6 p.m. on 18 July, 2004, from a pipeline running between Chemplast Sanmar’s chlorine plant and its adjacent fumed silica plant in Mettur Dam, Tamilnadu, sent 23 people to the hospital. More than 50 people are reported to have fainted after inhaling the chlorine fumes. A 22-day old child, and two young girls aged 10 and 13 are among those hospitalised.

A few years ago, shrapnel from an explosion at Chemplast’s fumed silica plant barely missed chemical storage tanks in Chemplast’s neighbouring facilities.

On 11 April, 2004, a contract worker in Birla-owned TANFAC in Cuddalore, was poisoned on the job and subsequently succumbed to his injuries on 30 April. No compensation has been paid to his widow. Rather, the bereaved family is subject to daily harassment by local labour contractors.

On 6 July, 2004, a fire at an endosulfan unit in Kerala-based Hindustan Insecticides Ltd caused a smoke plume that covered more than 250 households. On 9 July, 2004, a boiler explosion at a dyeing unit in Erode, Tamilnadu, killed four workers.

Despite demands by citizens for publication of onsite and offsite emergency plans as required by the Factories Act and the Manufacture, Storage, Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules (1989), regulators have exhibited remarkable restraint in implementing the laws in a bid to protect the corporations.

As the largest private company in the small town, Chemplast is reported to have the district authorities, including the police, under its control. The company’s plans to set up a hazardous PVC factory in Cuddalore, Tamilnadu, was shelved after local residents gathered in numbers to drive the investment out. The PVC factory proposal was given a similarly hostile reception in Krishnapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, where more than 2000 local fishermen and farmers came to protest the investment at a Government-held public hearing.

The factory proposal is pending approval at the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board. The company’s powerful ties locally are evident from the fact that even otherwise independent publications like The Hindu refuse to carry articles about the company’s wrong doings or people’s opposition to the company’s pollution.

More on the Chemplast gas leak as updates arrive.

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Law Ministry passes case to Ministry of Environment & Forests


New Delhi, June 21, 2004: On the 4th day of the hunger strike by three Bhopal activists at Jantar Mantar, and with just eight more days to go[1], the Indian government still had not sent its letter of receptivity for the Bhopal clean up to the concerned US Court. However, the Ministry of Law took a turnaround from the earlier stand it took on June 16th when a delegation met the Minister Mr Bharadwaj this morning. He agreed that the present case of contamination and remediation is distinctly different from the gas leak disaster case and clearly a case of environmental contamination. The Minister also directed the Bhopal activists and their supporters towards the Ministry of Environment and Forests as the concerned Ministry in this case.
In the evening, based on the Law Ministry’s latest views on the issue, the Minister of Environment and Forests Mr A Raja was met by the same delegation, which appraised him about the urgency of the situation given that time was running out for the US Court deadline, and given that the Hunger Strike had already entered its fourth day today. Mr Raja assured the delegation that since this was an important issue, the Ministry would do the needful and would meet the June 30th deadline. Meanwhile, for the three activists who have been on the hunger strike, this 5-delay by the fallacious arguments of the Law Ministry could prove dear. Doctors attending on them have reported further deterioration with ketone bodies detected in the urine samples.[2]

A pile of rocks, actually solid carbaryl, lying in the open air at the factory site in Bhopal
“It was callous of the Law Ministry to have delayed this issue for so long on wrongful grounds. At least now, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has to act immediately. Otherwise, it could prove to be very costly for the communities contaminated by Union Carbide”, said Mr Satinath Sarangi, Member, Bhopal Group for Information and Action who has been fasting since June 18th.
Reliable sources have informed us that over the weekend, high level consultations took place with the Prime Minister intervening in the matter. Senior Congress Ministers like Kapil Sibal and Oscar Fernandes have also taken up the issue with the concerned people.
Support continues to pour in for the activists on hunger strike and for the cause of clean up of the contamination in Bhopal. Ms Nandita Das, Actress, visited the activists at Jantar Mantar today. Yesterday evening, the hunger strikers were met by Swami Agnivesh, who extended his solidarity to them. Thousands of petitions urging the Indian government to act swiftly continue to pour
in, many emerging from the US. More than 200 supporters from across the world have also gone on a relay hunger strike to express their solidarity. Long time supporter Diane Wilson and members of the Association for India’s Development will start their hunger strike in front of the Indian embassy in Washington DC soon.

For more information on the campaign, and to join the petition campaign, please visit:
https://www.bhopal.net or
http://www.greenpeaceindia.org or

You can also contact the following persons/numbers for more information:
Ms Rasheeda Bi, Mr Shahid Noor and Mr Satinath Sarangi – the hungerstrikers on the following mobile numbers:
+91-98-102-02105 or +91-755-3132298
Ms Vinuta Gopal on +91-98-455-35418 or Ms Kavitha Kuruganti on +91-80-36882103 or Ms Anuradha Saibaba on + 91-98-119 -03172

You can send an email to the following addresses:
vgopal@dialb.greenpeace.org; campaigns@theothermedia.org; kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

[1] On March 17th 2004, a New York District Court had ruled that if the Indian government or Madhya Pradesh government urges the US Court to order such a relief before June 30th 2004, then it can order Union Carbide to clean up the abandoned factory site and its surroundings.
[2] [DOC1]. Hungerstrikers’ medical records.

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