Kerala orders probe into oil spill from titanium factory to sea
A day after furnace oil from the state-run Travancore Titanium Products Limited (TTPL) in Thiruvananthapuram leaked into the adjoining Arabian Sea, the government ordered a probe and launched an emergency cleaning operation. Though the company said the leak was plugged effectively, fishermen and local people alleged that it started affecting marine life in the periphery of sea.
TTPL was closed temporarily after the oil spill. District authorities planned to shift people living near the factory after a nauseating smell filled the air.
The oil leak was first noticed by some fishermen on Wednesday and they immediately alerted the company which plugged the leak. TTPL chairman AR Rasheed said the spill was caused due to a rupture in a furnace oil pipeline to the company and roughly 5,000 litres were spilled and a portion of it reached the sea through a drainage line.
The carcass of a big sea turtle washed up on Veli beach on Wednesday night, creating panic. Fishermen alleged that fish and other marine creatures were destroyed. But marine experts said the death of the turtle can’t be immediately attributed to the spillage because such creatures inhabit the deep sea. Officials said the real cause of death will be ascertained only after an autopsy.
“The government on Thursday constituted a three-member panel to inquire the mishap. Our initial inquiry suggests that a rupture in an old pipeline triggered the leak. TTPL will compensate the affected as per the government directive,” said Rasheed. Employees of the company joined local people and fishermen to clean up the beach at several places. The Coast Guard’s help was also sought to clean up the beach and the sea.
District collector Navjot Khosa, who visited the affected areas, prohibited fishing in the area and restricted tourists and others for two days. She said top-soil along the affected stretch will be removed. The coast guard also said it was monitoring the situation.
“The neglect on the part of TTPL was quite visible. It was noticed by fishermen in the sea and their inquiry led to the company. Officials noticed the leak only after their alert,” said Jerin Peter, a local, adding the fisher community was the worst-affected. He said many people complained of breathing problems.
Congress and BJP workers carried out a protest march before the company seeking action against officials and compensation to the affected. The pollution control board has also pulled up TTPL. TTPL extracts rich minerals from the sand and manufacture titanium dioxide pigment from the limonite abundantly found along the south Kerala coast.