A monitoring committee, appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the production of oxygen at the sealed Sterlite Copper smelter premises, inspected the plant on Wednesday.
“The plant will be ready to produce oxygen in another seven days,” said Collector K. Senthil Raj, who inspected the oxygen plant and allied units from noon, along with the monitoring committee members to ascertain if the plant was ready for producing oxygen that could be used for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
“I want to reiterate that oxygen alone will be produced from this complex and no other operation will be allowed,” Dr. Senthil Raj said. He said necessary permissions from different government agencies like Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation, TWAD Board, Thoothukudi Corporation, Fire and Industrial Safety, Electrical Inspector and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had been expedited as directed by the Supreme Court, only for oxygen production.
Sterlite has submitted a list of personnel to be engaged for the operation of the oxygen plant. The list will be vetted by technical experts of the committee before giving them permission to enter the plant.
“Power and water supply are given only for whatever quantity they need to operate the oxygen plant on standalone basis. Once all the permissions are given, the machinery will be checked, a power and a safety audit will be conducted, after which only will oxygen production commence. We expect the oxygen to be produced for medical use in another seven days,” the Collector said.
Sterlite Copper had announced on Tuesday that the oxygen plant was ready to produce the life-saving gas as it had been checked thoroughly and overhauled by its technicians.
Subsequently, the monitoring committee, led by Dr. Senthil Raj, entered the Sterlite Copper premises via the materials gate around noon to reach the oxygen plant and inspected the operational preparedness of the plant.
Superintendent of Police, Thoothukudi, S. Jayakumar; Sub-Collector, Thoothukudi, Simranjeet Singh; Head, Department of Chemistry, Kamaraj College, D. Kanagavel; Manager (Fire and Safety), Zirconium Complex, Department of Atomic Energy, Pazhaiyakaayal, V.C.P. Amarnath and Deputy Chief Chemist, Tuticorin Thermal Power Station (TTPS) Bellarmine Anton, accompanied the Collector during the inspection.
The mandatory safety audit is being conducted by the Collector-led monitoring committee before the commencement of operations to issue appropriate instructions, if any, to ensure operational safety.
Earlier, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had sent a list of experts to the State government from whom the members of the committee have been hand picked. The Ministry list included the names of renowned marine biologist J.K. Patterson Edward, Director, Suganthi Devadasan Marine Research Institute, Thoothukudi, environmental scientist A.G. Murugesan, formerly head, Sri Paramakalyani Centre for Environmental Science, Alwarkurichi, which is a satellite centre of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Dr. Kanagavel and a few others.
Once the monitoring committee gives its nod for the operation of the oxygen plant, power supply would be restored to the plant. The plant will be run and managed by Vedanta Industries Limited, the proponent of Sterlite Copper, even as the monitoring committee will oversee its proper functioning as per environmental and safety norms.