The Punjab government has found a foolish new way of disposing of the wastewater of reverse-osmosis (RO) plants.
The uranium-rich water is injected back into the deep earth from where it is drawn for drinking, and the rest is let into village ponds.
The state government on Monday submitted this information to the Punjab and Haryana high court during the hearing of a public-interest petition on groundwater pollution. “We dig bore-wells 250 metres for this purpose especially,” Sanjay Kumar, secretary of the department of water supply and sanitation, stated in court.
Even the United States environmental protection agency guidelines sanctioned disposing of drinking water treatment waste containing “naturally occurring radionuclines” into deeper strata, said the officer.
“On the issue of uranium going back into the groundwater with this method, the government has consulted the Punjab pollution control board and Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai. The two bodies have no guidelines on it.”
The government submitted before the division bench of acting chief justice Jasbir Singh and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain that of the 1,811 RO plants proposed for the treatment of water for drinking, 1,687 were installed.
Of the 739 samples of treated water from RO plants sent to the BARC, only four contained uranium beyond the prescribed limit. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India has set the limit at 60 micrograms per litre. The failed samples are from RO plants in Jamalgarh and Chak Sukhera villages of Fazilka, Rajgarh in Bathinda district, and Gujjar in Faridkot.
The high court directed the former project manager of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Iqbal Singh Kalsi, to submit his study report on the best measures for managing the uranium content in groundwater. His report will also go to the BARC and Punjab government.
Kalsi, a party in the case, and had submitted in the court that hi study raised questions on the functioning of the RO systems in Punjab. The next hearing is on September 10.