A high-level team of Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) has inspected the site of the chemical treatment in the Njunangar stream, a tributary of the river Pampa in the foothills of Sabarimala, on Wednesday.

The PCB has constituted a three-member committee chaired by the its member secretary, D. Thankamony, along with the board members, K. Shaji, academic and K.P. Thomas, Dean of Department of Environmental Studies, Mahatma Gandhi University, to inspect the treatment site in Njunangar and submit a report to it following media reports on the ill-effects of chemical treatment in the running water source.

The Travancore Devaswom Board has been carrying out treatment of the Njunangar waters using ferrous chloride-titania mixture as per the directions of the PCB chairman, S.D. Jeyaprasad since January 1. The direct chemical treatment of the perennial water source had invited strong protests from various environmental groups as well as experts.

A popular committee of experts and environmentalists chaired by Mr. R. Ajayan had conducted a laboratory analysis of the sludge collected from the Njunngar bed and found a high concentration of heavy metals in it posing serious health risk to the population residing in the Pampa river basin up to Kuttanad.

The Forest Minister, Binoy Viswom, had apprised the Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan of the seriousness of the issue on the basis of the popular committee report, besides directing the Forest department to stop the pumping of sludge into the forest areas a week ago.

The PCB members, Koshy and Thomas, inspected the site on Wednesday morning and found a heavy deposit of sludge accumulated on the Njunangar bed. They observed that the sludge will eventually flow into the Pampa with the rain water.

The PCB members have also collected samples of the sludge and river water for detailed analysis. Though both the members have expressed their displeasure towards the direct chemical treatment of the river which has been a major drinking water source of not less than 30 lakh population in the Pampa river basin, they declined to make any further comment on it, adding that they would submit a detailed report to the PCB soon.

Coliform count

Meanwhile, the water analysis by the PCB team at Pampa has shown an alarming increase in the coliform count, despite the chemical treatment of the Njunangar during the last lap of the Makaravilakku season.

PCB laboratory records show that the coliform count in the immediate downstream areas of the river treatment site was 1,14,000 per every 100 ml on January 16 against its maximum permissible limit of 2,500 per 100 ml (for bathing standards).

According to PCB sources, the bio-chemical oxygen demand in the river water too was found extremely high at 120 mg per litre, sources said.

The PCB official at Pampa has directed the TDB to pump the sludge accumulated on the Njunangar bed into a pit dug in the sewage treatment plant premises at Cheriyanavattom, later, in the afternoon.