The discovery of several truckloads of waste from crude oil refinery processes being dumped close to a stream outside Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Limited (MRPL) on Thursday triggered fear and panic among people of Modapadavu on the outskirts of Mangalore.

Irate people of the village blocked two trucks, each of which dumped 9.83 tonnes of ball-shaped and rod-shaped chemical catalysts, demanding that MRPL sterilise the area.

One of the drivers said at least 25 truckloads of chemicals from the storage department of MRPL had been dumped and covered with mud in the past three days on the site where the company was developing a playground for children.

“We saw trucks proceeding to the site carrying waste. A black liquid was leaking from the truck. We followed it, and saw them dumping it close to the stream,” said Ramesh Poojary, a farmer. He alerted the people of Modapadavu and Kuthetoor, where more than 20 households border an iron-coloured stream that follows from the hills surrounding MRPL. The discovery triggered fears in the villages, where in the past there have been instances of underground oil leakage from the refinery making its way to the stream. People of the villages, and gram and taluk panchayat officials gathered at the site demanding that MRPL remove the waste. “There is something nefarious in this. Why would they do this kind of operation covertly, and then cover it up with mud?” Thomas Fernandes, former president of Kuthetoor panchayat, said.

A team from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board took samples from the site, while police officials directed MRPL authorities to remove the waste. Surprisingly, MRPL security personnel, who rushed to the spot after people refused to let the trucks leave, said they were unaware of the dumping.

Officials from MRPL technical division claimed that the inert alumina ceramic balls were “non-hazardous. The material do not pose any harm, and is being dumped in our land. It is being used as filler while levelling playgrounds or tarring roads,” said an official.

However, a worker at the refinery, said during the refining process of the oil, the ceramic balls get coated with a toxic chemicals and carbon.

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