The Thoothukudi district administration has dispatched government officials to the Sterlite Copper Plant owned by Vedanta to examine a 'minor' sulphuric acid leak detected at a storage unit in the sealed plant. Collector Sandeep Nanthuri told TNM that officials will remove the chemical and other hazardous substances from the venue.
The district administration, however, said there was no cause for panic.
A special team consisting Sub-Collector MS Prasanth, a district environment engineer of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, officials from the Revenue and Fire departments spotted the leak the on Sunday.
Sterlite has requested the state government to give it limited access to the smelter to ensure mandatory safety audits to prevent such incidents but the permission is yet to be given.
Responding to the developments, Sterlite said, “We are already assisting the local administration to handle the situation and have offered all support to keep a vigil on the plant and its surroundings. In fact, anticipating such incidents in the absence of regular maintenance, we have been requesting the state government to give us limited manpower access and minimal power supply so that mandatory safety audits at the smelter can be regularly carried out.”
That request is still pending. We once again urge the government to give us at least restricted access to the copper smelter. We have had no access to the plant ever since it was suddenly sealed and locked with effect from 28 May 2018.Sterlite
The collector, however, told TNM that a government order has been passed to seal the plant and that district authorities cannot allow Sterlite to carry out audits unless they receive orders from the state government.
The Tamil Nadu government had ordered the closure of the Sterlite Copper factory in Thoothukudi following violence in the district where 14 people were killed.
The government order endorsed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s directive to close the unit citing constitutional provisions to protect and improve the environment as well as the interests of the people.
“The decision to close the plant was arrived at upon consideration of the interests and sentiments of the people of Thoothukudi,” Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami had said.
(This story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)