Report finds no quick solution to groundwater contamination

Contamination from experimental plant of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre

High number of hypothyroidism cases reported in Keezhmadu panchayat in Aluva was the result of high-level groundwater contamination from the ammonium perchlorate plant of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) located near Kulakkad area in the panchayat.

Though perchlorate-induced hypothyroidism among the people came down sharply after they were provided safe drinking water for domestic use, there is no immediate solution to tackle the groundwater contamination.

These are the major findings of the assessment report on perchlorate pollution by the technical expert committee constituted by the District Collector in June 2014.

“How and when the perchlorate leaked was not identified by the study as the current practice of disposing the perchlorate waste from the plant does not give any scope for leaching out,” N. Chandramohana Kumar, chairman of the expert committee, told The Hindu . The committee conducted a two-pronged investigation — first, to assess the extent of contamination, and second, to find the medical effect on the human body. The study with a sample size of 570 people included people from a control area in Karukutty panchayat, 30 km away from the affected area.

High number of people

The study was initiated after the District Medical Officer was alerted by the medical officer at Keezhmadu public health centre about the high number of people affected with hypothyroidism, and the study by the National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, found the presence of perchlorate ions in the water samples collected from wells around the ISRO unit.

This information triggered a pilot study and later a detailed study by the technical expert committee.

Findings handed over

The findings were handed over to District Collector M.G. Rajamanickam in a function held at the Rajagiri Hospital on Sunday. Anwar Sadat, MLA, presided.

Dr. Kumar, professor, Department of Chemical Oceanography, introduced the report at the function. Sunny P. Orathel, vice-chairman of the committee and medical superintendent, Rajagiri Hospital, spoke on hypothyroidism and how perchlorate-contamination affected the health of the people.

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