Even as Ennore continues to reel from the oil spill caused by Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL), residents now face the effects of an ammonia gas leak. The leak has led to widespread panic after several people were hospitalised. The leak occurred on December 26 from the Coromandel International Limited, a fertiliser manufacturing facility owned by the Murugappa Group. Many people are reported to have fainted, experienced irritation in the eyes and difficulty breathing. The unit has been shut down temporarily.
Speaking to TNM, Nishant, a resident from Ennore, said people experienced breathing difficulties around 11.45 pm. Later, thousands of people rushed out of their homes and waited by the roadside until the police reached the spot. Nishant also told TNM that one person was admitted to a private hospital in Tiruvottriyur after they began to bleed from the ear and nose. Many residents have moved to their relatives’ homes in Palaverkadu and Tiruvottriyur.
Puthiyathalamurai reported that residents of Ennore are staging a protest demanding that the Coromandel facility be shut down permanently. They also told the news channel that 30 to 40 people have been hospitalised and that at least 10 of them are in intensive care.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, December 27, Tamil Nadu Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ma Subramanian said, “There are 36 people admitted at the Akash Hospital and six at the Stanley Medical College and Hospital. These 42 people are recovering and are likely to be discharged in a few hours. Chief Minister MK Stalin has ordered that the facility be temporarily closed for a week. A medical camp has been set up in a public school in Periyakuppam consisting of three lung specialists apart from general physicians. Those not able to travel to hospitals for treatment can avail medical attention at the camp.” Three of the six patients admitted to Stanley Hospital are children, he confirmed.
The facility produces 4 lakh tonnes/annum of Ammonium Phosphate Potash Sulphate (APPS), and ammonia is one of the raw materials. At around 11:45 pm, the pressure in the pipelines on the sea bed transporting ammonia dropped. Workers at the facility also noticed a pungent odour and gas bubbles were discovered from a pipeline near the shore. Complaints of discomfort and odour were also made to the police by residents of Chinnakuppam and Periyakuppam—two fishing villages already struggling with the impact of the CPCL oil spill. Other areas also suffering from the ammonia leak included Netaji Nagar and Burma Nagar.
According to a report by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), a seawater sample at the point of the pipeline leakage was collected at 3.49 am. The ammonia level in the seawater was found to be 49 mg/litre as against the marine discharge standard of 5 mg/litre. During the inspection, the TNPCB team also found that the ammonia level in the ambient air was at 2,090 micrograms per cubic metre as against the normal 400 micrograms per cubic metre during a 24-hour average.
TNPCB has instructed the Coromandel facility to identify the exact location and the extent of the pipeline damage within a day and rectify it before commencing ammonia transfer. The unit has also been instructed to carry out repairs on a war footing and to put the pipeline back into operation only with the concurrence of the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board.
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