This comes after the district administration managed to clear the sulphuric acid and stem the leak on Monday.

Other hazardous materials pose risk Sterlite demands access to Thoothukudi plant
news Sterlite Plant Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 07:49

The Thoothukudi district administration stated on Monday that all traces of sulphuric acid were removed from the Sterlite Copper unit in the district. But Vedanta Limited said on Wednesday that this does not guarantee a risk-free environment for those residing close to the smelter. 

Arguing their case in court, Sterlite asked for the company’s employees to be allowed inside the plant for maintenance work. The copper smelter had first gone to court following a sulphuric acid leak in the plant on June 18. It had alleged that the leak was grave, could have catastrophic consequences and that Sterlite required minimal power supply to hasten the cleaning process. The district administration however managed to clear the acid and stem the leak on Monday.

But Sterlite remains unconvinced.

A company spokesperson told TNM, "This particular leak is just for one chemical present there. There are several other hazardous substances present and if not constantly monitored and maintained, could pose a huge risk to residents. This one clean up activity is not enough. Our company's employees must be allowed inside."

Speaking to the media on Monday, district collector Sandeep Nanduri stated that 2,124 tonnes of sulphuric acid had been completely removed with 95 tankers. 

"All the acid in the dyke has been taken out. No more leakage is present. A high-powered committee has been appointed to see what arrangements to do with the rest of the chemicals and acid in the tanks. They have already come and inspected for a whole day. After the report comes, we will start work after receiving orders on how to proceed on evacuating other materials and taking further action," he explained. 

Sterlite had earlier claimed that the copper plant was still home to hazardous and flammable chemicals. It cautioned that if any untoward incident were to happen during its removal, Thoothukudi will be gravely affected. 

The government responded by appointing a seven-member expert committee to safely remove the substances and said that necessary action was being taken in accordance with the committee’s mandate.

“For the past 24 years, the Sterlite plant has been functioning in accordance with the law. The expansion work for the second unit was taking place. During that time, the residents in the area demanded the stoppage of work and called for the permanent closure of the plant. For the existing plant, the TNPCB did not renew the licence. In the meanwhile, as a consequence of the people's protest against the plant, the electricity supply to the plant was cut off. Since the plant was closed after that, it has not been maintained. If it continues to be without maintenance, there is a possibility of toxic and other substances in the taps,” the company had earlier argued.

The plant had been ordered shut following massive protests against it in the district. On May 22, police fired on the demonstrators, leaving 13 civilians dead. 

Sterlite further claimed that the villages around the plant were vulnerable on account of the hazardous substances. The copper smelter requested the court to allow the entry of select employees with police protection in order to carry out maintenance work. The Vedanta-owned company also asked for power supply to be restored for the work to be carried out. 

Justices CT Selvam and Basheer Ahmed have posted the matter for hearing in the first week of July.


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