Activists in Mangaluru on Friday raised alarm bells over the discharge of blackish water from Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) into a storm-water drain in the refinery area.
The company, however, refuted the claims, saying that the discharge was water mixed with oil and that measures have been taken to extract the oil.
Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) State President Muneer Katipalla, who visited the area on Thursday, accused the MRPL of discharging blackish water into the storm-water drain passing through the facility, leading to Thokur stream and, eventually, the Phalguni River.
Officials at the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) admitted that an oil leak occurred at the MRPL on Tuesday night. "When there was heavy rains on Tuesday, an oil catcher collapsed and crude oil leaked outside the drain. Next day, we controlled it by deploying oil booms. The MRPL, meanwhile, deployed suckers to extract the oil from the water wherever it is there," said Rajashekar Puranik, a Senior Environment Officer at the KSPCB.
Puranik played down concerns surrounding the leak and stated ."If it was on a bigger scale, it might be a major public concern. But we observed that the oil reached up to the pond in the MRPL premises and has not come out from there. We need to find out how much quantity of oil has leaked and we have issued a notice to MRPL regarding this week," he said.
However, Muneer said that the water leading to the Thokur stream was still appearing blackish. "The report prepared by the Pollution Control Board appears to overlook the company's mistakes. They should have informed the media and the public if it had come to their notice and they had visited the spot saying this has happened. Even the district authorities have given a statement that appears to downplay the issue," he claimed.
He added that this is not the first time the issue is surfacing. Previously in 2014, residents of Jokatte near the premises of MRPL had protested against the discharge of oil and waste by the plant. "Even then, it was only after residents protested that the Pollution Control Board issued notices to MRPL," said Muneer.