Pollution norms were not followed for 40 out of 50 months till 2012 at Tata Power Company (TPC)’s Trombay thermal power plant, according to information obtained under the Right to Information Act (RTI).
Information provided to the Conservation Action Trust (CAT), an environment group which asked for Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB)’s observation on compliance of environment norms by the plant between 2008 and 2012, suggests that coal dust was found in the yard, factory premises, internal roads, and in some cases, on external roads during the periods when norms were not followed.
TPC has two units running on coal and has plans to modernise its 500-megawatt unit-6 by replacing gas with low-sulphur and low-ash imported coal.
Environmentalists have raised questions over pollution that will be caused with additional quantities of coal being imported, stored and transported for the power plant. Based on the monthly compliance reports of the power plant owned and operated by TPC, MPCB officials issued show-cause notices on why additional pollution cess must not be charged for not complying with norms.
Apart from the presence of coal dust, it was found that there were no impervious ash ponds to avoid underground percolation and no separate water meters to know the actual quantity of sea water consumption.
“Though the consent letter has 30 to 40 conditions, MPCB has been looking at only three to four conditions, and all their reports are identical, with just the dates being changed,” said Debi Goenka of the CAT. The company imports Indonesian coal through the Dharamtar jetty with low ash and sulphur contents. “Their existing coal is causing destruction of mangroves in Sewri.
While heavier particles settle in the yard, finer coal dust particles travel depending on wind speed and velocity,” said Goenka, adding that converting another unit to coal will mean more pollution. “Converting a unit to coal will mean importing and adding 8,000 to 9,000 metric tonnes of coal to the yards every day. The situation will only worsen. And who is measuring air quality data?” said Goenka. According to statement from TPC, an advance suppression system has been installed at the coal yard for suppression of coal dust and to reduce fugitive emissions.
While transportation is done through closed coal conveyors till the coal yard/plant to avoid spillage and fugitive emissions within the premises, recycled water will be used to suppress coal dust emission and an enclosed unloading system will be used to minimise dust emissions.
“At the captive coal berth, an environmental-friendly, mechanical screw-type unloader has been installed to ensure dust-free coal unloading operations. The system is well proven and functioning satisfactorily and has been appreciated by visitors and government authorities. The same will be replicated for Unit 6 modernisation,” said a company spokesperson.