Brown blanket of smoke in Raigad: MPCB notice to firmUpdated: Jul 30, 2020, 23:39 IST
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Thursday issued a notice to Jindal Steel Works’ (JSW) Dolvi coke oven plant in Pen taluka, Raigad, after residents’ complained of excessive smoke released by the industrial unit, following a power outage.
Residents said that thick brown voluminous smoke was released from the plant from 10.30am onwards on Wednesday, leading to yellowish-brown haze for hours in surrounding areas.
A JSW spokesperson confirmed that it was for a period of 15 minutes. After the power outage, the plant was shut down but claimed the smoke was not toxic.
MPCB said they called for an explanation on the absence of backup smoke emitting mitigation measures and issued a show-cause notice under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, Water Act, 1974, and the unit’s consent to operate.
“The industry has violated the consent to operate since they did not have alternate electricity supply for their air pollution control equipment. Also, the pollution control system operation was not maintained properly that led to the sudden burst of smoke from coking coal. As a result, there was a huge quantity of emissions released into the environment. It is a potential health hazard for nearby local residents and workers within factory premises,” said JS Salunkhe, regional officer (Raigad), MPCB.
Salunkhe added that MPCB plans on penalising the unit to ensure a similar incident was not repeated. “The industry has to explain why they should not be investigated and the entire coke oven plant not be shut down. Based on their response, fitting penalties will be levied,” said Salunkhe.
JSW spokesperson said the smoke died down within 15 minutes as soon as the unit operation resumed. “Neither was the smoke hazardous or poisonous,” he said.
Irked by the fumes, Dolvi resident Priyanka Tandel filed a complaint with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Wednesday. “Owing to an increase in pollution for several years now, Dolvi, Gadab, Wadkhal, Navegaon, Pen and several other villages are severely affected. Constant smoke causes distress to residents, especially children, the elderly and the sick. The company is playing with our lives but no action has been taken by pollution control state or Central agencies so far,” said Tandel.
A resident of Pen-Vashi village Vijay Bhoir, who lives 10 km away from the plant, said, “A radius of 15 km around the plant was engulfed in brown smoke and led to breathing difficulty for my family and I. It took around five hours for the haze to settle down.”
Environmental activist Kailash Anerao said, “It is unfortunate that big corporate groups are seen flouting pollution norms repeatedly and pollution control authorities are seen favouring them. If the draft environment impact assessment (EIA), 2020 becomes law then the public will not even be able to raise such issues anymore. The ‘polluters pay principle’ needs to be upheld.”
MPCB TO ASSESS POLLUTION DATA FROM JSW TO ASSESS PENALTY
According to MPCB, the 3.5 million tons per annum (MTPA) capacity coke oven plant is an extension of the 10 MTPA industrial site at Dolvi village, which recovers and supplies by-products like coke fines, crude tar, benzol, sulphur etc. The plant received environment clearance in February 2018 from the Union environment ministry with several conditions including the installation of five continuous air quality monitoring stations for PM2.5, PM10, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and 22 continuous stack emission monitoring systems. These systems are connected online to the MPCB and CPCB portals. “We will be assessing the pollution data for Wednesday to check the breach of safety standards to finalise the penalty against the unit,” said Salunkhe.