Steps yet to be taken to reduce nitrate levels in groundwater

Senior officials deny knowledge of environment survey report; say no request was made to take such measures

The Department of Science and Technology and Environment, Puducherry, released the Annual Environment Survey Report 2009-10 in June, which contained reports and statistics about various environment issues in the Union Territory.

On the status of water quality in the Puducherry region, the report said that values of alkalinity, hardness, calcium, magnesium, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and chloride, exceeded the “prescribed standard limits” in some borewell samples taken from the town.

In areas such as Mettupalayam, Muthirapalayam and Karuvadikuppam, the report said that nitrate levels in groundwater exceeded the limits.

The report also said that senior officials of the Local Administration Department, the Oulgaret Municipality and the Public Works Department “have been requested to take appropriate remedial measures to contain nitrate levels in groundwater.”

But, two months after its release, senior officials of the departments denied knowledge of any such report and said “no request has been made to them to take any such measure.”

According to a municipal official, neither the report had been given to them nor had any communication come from the Pollution Control Committee or the Environment Department.

On reasons for high nitrate levels that concern the municipality such as disposal of garbage in the open, the official said that such problems would be solved only when the integrated solid waste management project, which has been on the anvil for a long time, gets implemented. He said that most of the formalities concerning the project had been fulfilled and it would soon start functioning.

A senior official of the Public Works Department also told The Hindu that they had not received any correspondence regarding the issue from any of the departments concerned.

The report had said that the disposal of untreated sewage in densely populated areas such as Muthirapalayam was one of the reasons for high nitrate levels.

The official said that as sewage runs through different areas, treating it at one particular place would not solve the problem as there would be contamination again in the down stream when the treated sewage is let out into the sea.

According to an official at the Government Hospital, high nitrate contamination in groundwater could cause severe health hazards including ‘blue baby syndrome' through ‘Methemoglobenemia,' a condition where the oxygen carrying capacity of haemoglobin in babies is reduced. This, the official said, could even lead to death.

  • “Disposal of untreated sewage in densely populated areas, reason for high nitrate levels”
  • “It can affect oxygen carrying capacity of haemoglobin in babies”

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