Hexavalent chromium present in water beyond permissible limits, admits PCB
SPCB parts with the information under RTI Act
It is based on water samples collected and tested by scientists
BHUBANESWAR: When Orissa’s Sukinda Valley, hub of chromite mining in the country, was dubbed as one of the 10 most polluted sites of the world, miners and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) were quick to refute the charge.
But, if information supplied by the SPCB under the RTI Act is to be believed, pollution is indeed prevailing in the valley. So much so that hexavalent chromium, a toxic compound of the metal that leads to carcinogenic diseases, is present in water beyond permissible limits.
The information was based on water samples collected and later tested by SPCB scientists at different points of time. While standard for hexavalent chromium in water is fixed at 0.1 ppm for India, the water discharged through drainages contains the toxic compound several times higher than that.
Shankar Pani, a Bhubhaneswar-based lawyer, sought inspection report of scientists of all the mines under the RTI Act.
Sample these details. Water discharged from tailing pond to Damasala Nullah after passing through effluent treatment plant (ETP) of Tailangi Chromite Mines was having hexavalent chromium at a staggering high of 1.49 mg/1, which was around 15 times higher than the permissible limit. Even treated mine drainage near Kalarangi Chowk was showing 16 times higher than the permissible level and drainage to colony of TISCO, a company of Tata Group, was around four times higher, which gave rise to suspicions over effectiveness of ETPs.
Water tested on November 16 last year showed that the concentration of hexavalent chromium in Ostapal untreated mine drainage was at 1.030 mg per litre. The tubewell water from Saurabil village, which was donated by Saurabil Mines, was having 0.165 mg per litre, which was higher than permissible limits. It was a clear indication that the groundwater of the area had already been contaminated. Water was coming from a depth of 250 feet to 350 feet, which clearly supported the view that groundwater was contaminated by hexavalent chromium for several years.
SPCB tried to wash its hands of the allegations saying “there is occasional deviation from the prescribed standard of 0.10 mg/litre. Such occasional violations are not uncommon in industrial and mining activities and it is not unique in case of the chromite mines in Sukinda.” It, however, blamed management lapses for the violation.
Till date, threat of carcinogenic disaster remained shielded under technical data being treasured by SPCB. Orissa accounts for about 98 per cent of the total proved chromium ore reserves of the country, of which about 97 per cent occur in the Sukinda Valley. If international price is taken into account, the value of chromite export from the area would surely go beyond Rs. 1000 crore-mark annually. However, the regulatory authority has been allegedly discounting the pollution for years now.