Vedanta has claimed that there is no evidence of water contamination. When evidence of water contamination was provided, it claimed that the contamination is not recent, and that groundwater sources in Thoothukudi were already contaminated even before Sterlite commenced operations.
Sterlite has argued that it is not sufficient to demonstrate that contaminant levels are in violation of regulatory limits. Rather they have demanded proof that current contaminant levels are higher than earlier contaminant levels in the groundwater sources.
In the charts below, we present a comparison between the 2018 annual average for various contaminants (Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Fluoride, Iron, Sulphates, Calcium, Lead, Nickel and Iron) taken from TNPCB’s measurements for the year and baseline values from 1996, 2003, and 2005 as provided in a 2017 study sponsored by Vedanta Ltd.
Nickel is a marker chemical and a known pollutant from copper smelters. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that some nickel compounds are carcinogenic to humans and that metallic nickel may possibly be carcinogenic to humans. The EPA has determined that nickel refinery dust and nickel subsulfide are human carcinogens.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that inorganic lead is probably carcinogenic to humans.
Excess iron gets deposited in the liver, heart and pancreas, where it can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer, cardiac arrhythmias and diabetes.
The water quality from 22 groundwater sources located inside (14 locations) and outside the factory (8 locations) were compared with baseline values furnished the Vedanta-sponsored report. The comparison revealed that:
GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION IN NEARBY VILLAGES
1. In 2018, TDS levels were between 2 and 10 times higher than 1996 baseline value in ground water from Madathur, Meelavittan, Pandarampatti, Silverpuram, Therkuveerapandiapuram (TV Puram) and Kayaloorani. In Kumareddiapuram, TDS level was nearly double the 2010 baseline value cited in the Vedanta-sponsored report.
Except for TV Puram, where TDS levels were above “acceptable” limits but within permissible limits, the levels of TDS in all other locations was above the permissile limit of 2000 milligram/Litre (mg/L).
2. In 2018, Sulphate levels were up to 3.5 times higher than the 1996 baseline value in groundwater from Madathur, Pandarampatti, Silverpuram, TV Puram and Kayaloorani. Levels in all locations were above the “acceptable” limit of 200 mg/L, with levels in Kayaloorani and Silverpuram exceeding even the “permissible” limit of 400 mg/L.
3. Lead levels in Madathur, TV Puram, Kayaloorani, and Kumareddiapuram have increased from levels at or below the permissible levels during the baseline year to well above dangerous levels in 2018. Levels in all these locations make the water toxic for human and animal consumption.
4. 2018 Nickel levels in Pandarampatti, Silverpuram, TV Puram, Kayaloorani and Kumareddiapuram were between 1.07 to 16.5 times higher than 2011 and 2014 baseline values reported in the NEERI report of 2011 and TNPCB measurements of 2014 respectively. The Vedanta-sponsored report did not include Nickel measurements. Nickel levels in all locations were higher than permissible levels, making the water too toxic for human and animal consumption.
5. 2018 Calcium levels in Madathur, Meelavittan, Pandarampatti, Silverpuram, TV Puram and Kayaloorani had increased from 1996 baseline values by between 1.3 and 6 times. Calcium levels in Silverpuram, Madathur and Meelavittan were beyond “permissible” limits making the water too toxic for consumption.
6. 2018 Iron levels in Madathur, Meelavittan, Pandarampatti, Silverpuram, TV Puram, Kumareddiapuram and Kayaloorani had all increased from their respective baseline values in 1996, 2005 and 2014. Levels in all locations except Kumareddiapuram increased from acceptable levels to well above dangerous limits during the comparison period. Iron levels at all locations make the water too toxic for human and animal consumption.
GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION INSIDE STERLITE PREMISES
1. TDS levels in 9 sample locations out of 14 have increased above the baseline. Levels in all 9 locations are above permissible levels.
2. Sulphate levels in 8 sample locations out of 14 have increased above the baseline. Levels in all 8 locations are above permissible levels.
3. Fluoride levels in four out of 14 locations have increased above the baseline. Level in 1 location is above permissible level, and in 1 location is above desirable level.
4. Lead levels in 11 out of 14 locations have increased above the baseline. Levels in all 11 locations are above permissible level.
5. Nickel levels in 8 out of 14 locations have increased above the baseline. Levels in 5 locations are above permissible level.
6. Calcium levels in 3 out of 14 locations have increased above the baseline. Levels in 2 locations are above permissible level. Level in 1 location is above desirable level.
7. Iron levels in 2 out of 14 locations have increased above the baseline. Level in 1 location is above permissible level.-
Article by Nityanand Jayaraman – Social activist and Founder member of Arapoor Iyakkam in Tamilnadu