Pollution control panel orders Coke to stop production

`Presence of cadmium was 400 to 600 times above the permissible limit'

Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Pollution Control Board on Friday ordered stoppage of production at the Palachimada unit of the Coca-Cola Company in Palakkad district for failure to comply with pollution control norms.

The Board observed that the presence of cadmium in its sludge was 400 to 600 times above the permissible limit. The company offered no explanation regarding the source of cadmium.

The company, it said, had also failed to fulfil satisfactorily the directive of the Monitoring Committee deputed by the Supreme Court to distribute water to the local population. It also did not carry out the directive, given by the Board and the Committee, to set up modern facilities for purifying the liquid effluents from the plant. The unit had been asked to set up treatment facilities that used reverse osmosis or similar process.

The company had been served show-cause notice by the Board on July 1. It was asked to explain why the renewal of consent to operate sought by the company should not be refused.

The Board said that the closure notice was sent to Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited on Friday, as explanations furnished by the company were not satisfactory. The order comes within days of the company resuming production on the strength of a High Court judgment in April lifting the conditional ban on its operation imposed by the Government.

The local administrative authority, Perumatty grama panchayat, had earlier refused licence to the company. However, on appeal, the Government allowed it to operate subject to conditions. The company then challenged the Government order successfully before the High Court.

The Board noted that the application submitted to it by the company for renewing consent to operate was defective. The changes in raw materials, production process, products, waste generation and waste quality were not stated in the application. Cadmium was found in the range of 200 to 300 milligram a kg of the sludge from the effluent treatment plant. The observed concentration was much above the tolerance/permissible limit for hazardous wastes. This categorically established that cadmium bearing raw material or materials were used in the production process or effluent treatment. The company had informed the monitoring committee that the groundwater used by it was not contaminated. "Therefore, the source of cadmium is some other raw material used by you; but your application does not contain the particulars of the source of cadmium and is, therefore, incomplete," said the Board.

The chairman of the Board said in his order that its studies had shown that the groundwater in the vicinity was contaminated on account of the existence of cadmium in the effluent as well as the sludge.

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