Environmentalists say the disaster in the tannery unit which killed 10 workers could have been averted, had there been regular monitoring of the CETP by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
L.C. Mani, deputy secretary, Vellore district unit of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, said the mishap brings to fore the “negligence and absence of regular monitoring” by the TNPCB.
The mishap had occurred owing to the poor quality of construction of the storage tank, activists say. Considering the toxic nature of the chemicals used in the tanning process, the TNPCB should have ensured the construction of the tank as per safety norms.
It is worth mentioning here that the sludge comprises toxic chemicals which included sodium chloride, lime, sodium sulphide, chromium sulphate, fat liquor, ammonia, sulphuric acid and dyes.
The mishap had occurred despite the fact that the company that operated the CETP had put in place a zero liquid discharge system about two years ago and a secure land fill for its sludge about seven years ago.
While most of the tanneries in Vellore district are connected to CETPs and some have individual effluent treatment plants which take care of the liquid effluents, the fact is that the TNPCB has not devoted sufficient attention to the mounting problem of the disposal of the accumulated sludge, which continues to pose a lurking environmental threat.
Public residing or working near the CETPs want the government to order a thorough re-look at the functioning of the CETPs, tighten the safety measures and strictly enforce the safety.
The Tamil Nadu Farmers Association staged a demonstration in Ranipet on Saturday evening demanding a compensation of Rs.10 lakh each to the families of the deceased workers and initiation of action against the officials responsible for the tragedy by virtue of their negligence in monitoring the functioning of the CETP.
P. Mohan, Minister for Rural Industries, Labour and Employment, K.C. Veeramani, Minister for School Education, R. Tamil Chandran, DIG of Police, Vellore Range and R. Nanthagopal, Collector of Vellore, visited the CETP and the tannery in the morning and enquired about the incident.