The CEO of LG Polymers, two directors as well as eight other officials of the company were arrested by the Visakhapatnam police on Tuesday night in connection with the styrene vapour leak incident, in which 12 people were killed and around 585 people fell sick on May 7.
Visakhapatnam police arrested CEO and Managing Director of LG Polymers Sunkey Jeong, Technical Director DS Kim and Additional Director (Operations) Poorna Chandra Mohan Rao. The remaining employees who were arrested include a production team leader, three engineers, one operator, a night duty officer for operations and a night shift safety officer, and a GPPS (General Purpose Polystyrene) in-charge.
On the same day, two Environmental Engineers working at the Visakhapatnam Regional and Zonal offices of the APPCB (Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board) -- P Prasada Rao and R Lakshmi Narayana -- were suspended for their negligence in allowing LG Polymers to operate without Environmental Clearance, and for other lapses in monitoring the plantâ€™s storage of styrene.
The arrests were made a day after the High-Power Committee (HPC), appointed by the state government to probe the vapour leak, submitted its report to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, blaming multiple inadequacies on part of LG Polymers. The committee also noted that the management had slacked, and that poor safety protocols and total breakdown of the emergency response procedures in the plant had resulted in the tragedy.
The Gopalapatnam police had registered a case on May 7 against LG Polymers at R R Venkatapuram, under various IPC Sections including 278 (making the atmosphere noxious to health).
Exactly two months later, the arrests were made.
The tragic incident had garnered nationwide attention, bringing into focus once again the loopholes in the implementation of industrial safety and environmental laws.
The shocking accident that occurred in the wee hours of May 7 affected hundreds of people in the vicinity of the LG Polymers factory. People were seen collapsing on the streets due to the effects of the styrene vapours. Animals and plant life were also affected.
The government-appointed High Power Committee (HPC) concluded its probe and submitted its report to Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy on Monday. The committee, which was headed by Neerabh Kumar Prasad, â€ŽSpecial Chief Secretary (Environment, Forests, Science and Technology), concluded that the incident was caused due to â€˜negligenceâ€™ on the part of LG Polymers, owned by South Korea based LG Chem Ltd.
In a statement to the media after the submission of the 4000-page report, Neerabh Kumar Prasad said that there were no proper preventive mechanisms in place in the factory to avert such incidents. He also noted that the warning siren facility was not in order. â€œNon adherence of safety protocols, lack of timely emergency response measures, and negligence were found and we have provided suggestions," he said.
Previously, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had also taken suo motu cognisance of the incident and had appointed a committee, which had concluded that the incident was a result of gross safety lapses.
With PTI Inputs