The ghostly ruins of a chemical factory that closed down nearly 20 years back are now giving nightmares to over 300 families living in its vicinity.

The Kerala Chlorates and Chemicals Limited, once a subsidiary of the Shaw Wallace Group at Erezha in Mavelikara, was opened in 1977 to produce potassium chlorate, usually used for matchsticks. It was shut down in 1990 following regular labour strikes. However, it is not the closure story, or the fact that many of the employees never received any rightful benefits, that is now causing concern to local residents.

An underground tank, which reportedly contained hundreds of litres of potassium dichlorate solution and was left untended to when the factory closed down, is now the source of recurring nightmares for around 320 families living in the factory vicinity. The colour of the water in bore-wells in the area has changed, along with the taste as well, leading to several wells here being rendered useless.

“The groundwater in the area has undoubtedly been polluted by the contents of the tank, which must have corroded over the years,” S. Abhilash, who lives near the factory, told The Hindu.

His wife and Municipal Councillor Leela Abhilash points out that rapidly diminishing water quality is not the only concern. People have stopped rearing chickens, since the fowl wandered onto the factory premises and pecked away at the grime and waste there, slowly leading to their death. Many children and grownups are complaining of a burning sensation in their eyes as well.

The 4.99 acre-premises of the factory was to be handed over to the Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NoRKA) department for a heritage village during the previous Congress regime, but plans changed and the present Left Democratic Front Government has forwarded to the Centre a proposal to open a Raja Ravi Varma International Centre for Visual Arts here, according to M. Murali, MLA. But a decision is still awaited.

Mr. Abhilash, stressing on the need for removing the tank from the region, cautions that further delays could mean more health hazards.