Following complaints from farmers and villagers and the subsequent probe, the A.P. Pollution Control Board (APPCB) has issued a show-cause notice to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) on alleged violation of norms at its plant at Tummalapalle in Kadapa district.
The APPCB task force will be hearing the UCIL and the complaining villagers in Vijayawada on September 5, according to board Chairman B.S.S. Prasad.
In an interaction with The Hindu here, Mr. Prasad said, “Our reports suggest that there is a steep rise in the levels of sodium and other heavy metals in the groundwater at Tummalapalle and its surrounding areas. Besides, the UCIL has not implemented the measures suggested to protect the tailing pond from likely seepage. Top officials from the corporation will be attending the legal hearing.”
As per the detailed note it prepared, the APPCB wanted the UCIL to line the tailing pond with 250 micron polyethylene layer in order to prevent possible seepage of the effluents.
The UCIL, instead, lined the pond with clay material with desired thickness as per the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) guidelines. The UCIL never approached the APPCB, or the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for amendment over lining of the tailing pond.
The report further stated that the uranium concentration in the groundwater was 4,000 ppb (parts per billion) against the AERB permissible limit of 60 ppb. TDS alkalinity, hardness, magnesium, chromium and nickel present in the groundwater samples taken from agricultural land were much higher than the BIS permissible limits.
The villages of Mobbuchintalapalli, KK Kotta and Kannampalli were badly affected due to the presence of high alkalinity and uranium concentrations, the report stated.
Following the report, the APPCB issued a show-cause notice to the UCIL under Section 33 (A) of Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Amendment Act, 1988.
This apart, the APPCB and the UCIL together are expected to take a view on the demands of the villagers, which include supply of piped safe drinking water to their homes, jobs for locals and consideration of their agricultural land for acquisition by the UCIL for the purpose of expansion etc.