TNPCB ignored violations by tanneries

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:19 pm IST

Published - February 02, 2015 01:54 am IST - CHENNAI:

The sludge storage tank in the CETP thatbreached, resulting in the death of 10 workersin an adjacent tannery in Ranipet on Saturday. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

The sludge storage tank in the CETP thatbreached, resulting in the death of 10 workersin an adjacent tannery in Ranipet on Saturday. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Questions have been raised about the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s virtual clean chit to the tanneries in a report last year after 10 workers died on Friday at a tannery in Ranipet in Vellore district; documents indicate that the Board was giving a long rope to the tanneries and the common effluent treatment plants set up by them.

Documents available with The Hindu show that three municipalities in Vellore questioned the TNPCB’s findings and alleged that the Board had not conducted proper inspections. They also protested against their officials being asked to sign these inspection reports.

The regulatory body may have to answer such tough questions over the tragedy when the Supreme Court resumes its hearing on Tuesday into a case related to the illegal discharge of effluents by tanneries in the area.

PCB officials were also aware for months about the presence of an illegal storage facility. It was from this second secure land fill (SLF) which stored untreated effluents, that the toxic sludge swamped the adjacent unit leading to the disaster. The facility was possibly used to store the untreated effluents so that it could be dumped elsewhere without incurring operation and maintenance costs.

TNPCB chairman K. Skandan admitted that the second secure landfill (SLF), did not have permission and it had been identified during an inspection last year.

“The landfill is supposed to be used to store only dry sludge after the effluents go through a filtration press. But in this case, they have bypassed the sludge drying bed and dumped wet effluents into the illegal SLF. As late as on January 9, the facility was warned. Once the detailed report on the incident comes, we will decide on the course of action,” he said.

Nine workers from West Bengal and one from Tamil Nadu died when the effluents swamped the workers sleeping in a tannery. The Vellore District Environment Monitoring Committee that has moved the Supreme Court against the pollution by the tanneries is set to contend that the loss of 10 lives was a “direct result” of the PCB’s failure to perform its functions and act on violations.

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