MAC: Mines and Communities

New study claims Vedanta smelter "endangers human health"

Published by MAC on 2010-12-13
Source: Deccan Chronicle, Times of India

A citizen's study of soil, sediment and groundwater samples, close to Vedanta-Sterlite's copper smelter in Tamil Nadu allegedly shows that the UK company is "endangering human health and environment and contaminating groundwater"

The company has just over a week to file its own affidavits to the Supreme Court, following a Madras High Court hearing in October which ordered closure of the smelter. See: Vedanta off the hook in Tamil Nadu - but only for a while

In turn, Vedanta has accused the study's authors of "attempting to subvert justice ", adding:

"[I]f the NGO is serious it would have engaged with the industry instead of resorting to antics about its one-sided and unscientific 'claims' and 'findings'."

Sterlite highly polluting: Study

Deccan Chronicle

4 December 2010

Chennai - While the Supreme Court has given Sterlite till the second week of December to complete filing of affidavits and counter-affidavits, residents of Thoothukudi who are directly affected by the pollution in the area have released results of analyses of soil, sediment and groundwater samples that they claim show that the company's copper smelting plant is "endangering human health and environment and contaminating groundwater" in the area.

"The samples of slag, sediment and soil that were collected in the vicinity of Sterlite's copper smelting complex in Thoothukudi proved the presence of heavy metals including iron, arsenic, cadmium and nickel beyond permissible limits," said Nityanand Jayaraman, an environmentalist who initiated the sampling with Community Environmental Monitoring (CEM) at Sargam Labs in the city, recognised by the ministry of environment and forests.

"Villagers also complain of the health impact, including women losing their menstrual cycle rhythm, an increase in cases of cancer and severe respiratory ailments," he added, speaking at a press conference in the city on Friday. "Soil samples collected from Therku Veerapandiapuram village contain quantities of iron and cadmium, which causes lung cancer, that are well over permissible limits."

When contacted, an official of Sterlite Industries India Ltd said, "The issue is sub judice and the matter is being heard by the Supreme Court. The press conference called by the NGO at Chennai today is an attempt to subvert justice."

Calling the sample analysis 'one-sided' and 'unscientific', Sterlite maintained that the company follows internationally accepted best environmental practices: "The company also feels that if the NGO is serious it would have engaged with the industry instead of resorting to antics about its one-sided and unscientific 'claims' and 'findings'."

Issue Sub Judice, Says Company Statement

Soil samples near Sterlite plant show high iron content

Times of India

4 December 2010

Chennai: Soil samples, taken from the backyard of a house in a hamlet Therku Veerapandiapuram near the Tuticorin-based copper smelter of Sterlite Industries have been found to have an iron content of 3,35,602mg/kg, that is 335.6gms of iron per kilo of soil, said to be several times higher than levels deemed safe, allege representatives of the Community Environmental Monitoring (CEM), an NGO which conducted an analysis of water and soil samples taken from ‘affected areas' in Tuticorin district. "With such huge levels, even accidental ingestion can cause iron poisoning. This can not only damage heart, liver and central nervous system, but is also lethal when taken in larger quantities," said Nityanand Jayaraman, a city activist and advisor to CEM.

Sterlite's copper smelter is caught in a legal tangle with the Madras high court recently ordering closure of the plant on the grounds that its operations had a "negative impact" on the environment. The case is now in the Supreme Court, with the company getting a stay on the closure order. Unveiling their studies to the media, CEM representatives say that findings in the same location also showed high levels of arsenic (ten times higher than permissible levels) and cadmium, both of which are cancer causing elements. Analysis of the sediment from Kalangarai Odai on eastern side of the company shows the levels of iron to be 477 times higher than levels deemed safe.

The samples were analysed at the Chennai-based Sargam Laboratories, which is recognised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, said Jayaraman. "We also analysed the water from a well in Therku Veerapandiapuram and a hand pump which is a drinking water source for that area. We found very high levels of dissolved Sulphate in the water. It is well known that Sterlite dumps large amounts of Gypsum (calcium sulphate dihydrate), which is a biproduct of the copper smelting in the vicinity of the complex. This seems to have contaminated the local water supplies," he said.

Sterlite Industries responded to the allegation saying, "the press conference called by the NGO is an attempt to subvert justice".

A company statement termed the findings as 'unscientific' and added that since the case was due to appear in the Supreme Court, the issue is subjudice.

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