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Inadequate treatment of sewage at Taloja, says Maharashtra Pollution Control Board

The pollution board also said that there was lack of planning during construction of industrial units since no buffer area exists between residential and industrial zones.

mumbai Updated: Sep 01, 2017 11:27 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board,Taloja industrial area,Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation
Clear demarcation between river water and the pollutants.(Bachchan Kumar/HT)

Old, defunct and broken pipelines carrying untreated domestic and industrial waste at Navi Mumbai’s Taloja industrial area, in the suburbs of Mumbai, is the reason why dogs had turned blue and fish species have declined by 90% at a nearby river, said officials from the state pollution control board.

In a letter to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) highlighted that dilapidated pipelines spread across 27 kilometres, are carrying untreated sewage within the industrial limits and emptying out at the Kasadi river, which flows from Taloja to Belapur creek via Kalamboli and Kharghar.

The pollution board also said that there was lack of planning during construction of industrial units since no buffer area exists between residential and industrial zones.

“Dilapidated pipelines are releasing industrial waste into the creeks that are polluting the Kasadi river. At the same time, pollution levels within the residential area is above permissible limits because of the lack of green cover and close proximity of residential buildings to industries emanating particulate pollution,” said Anil Mohekar, regional officer, MPCB Navi Mumbai. “We have asked for a status report regarding pollution standards from MIDC and further investigations are being conducted. We will not tolerate any harm to animals affected by this pollution”

When HT visited the site, it was observed that effluents from various industries located in the area were releasing effluents directly into the river. There was a clear demarcation between the river water and the pollutants entering Kasadi (see pic).

HT first reported on August 11 about the dogs mysteriously turning blue, after residents spotted the canines. When local activists filed a complaint with MPCB, it was discovered that a private company was releasing blue dye into the air and the river water. On August 18, the pollution control board shut down the Navi Mumbai-based private company that was discharging residual dye powder into the air and in the water, which was turning dogs in the area blue.

A visit to the site revealed that the dye was washed from the fur of most of the dogs and the operations had stopped at the private firm. “There has been no work at this factory for the last 10 days. All labourers have been shifted to other units and we are manning an empty factory,” said a security guard stationed at the private firm.

“The rain has helped wash away the colour from the dogs. However, only one of the dogs still has a little colour on his body,” said Shanta Deshmukh, a tea stall owner, who feeds the dogs biscuits daily.

According to MPCB, the area has nearly a 1,000 pharmaceutical, food and engineering factories, spread across 2157 acres. Of these, 347 small and medium-scale industries, mostly comprising of chemical, pharmaceutical and food processing are polluting industries with one CETP treating effluents. The industries employ about 76,000 people and have an annual turnover of Rs60,000 crore.

Local fishermen said that the untreated sewage had reduced the fish catch at Kasadi by 90%. “We have been forced to shift our fishing activities to the coast rather than this river because people will die if they eat this fish. At any point in time, people can see dead fish floating at the surface of this river,” said Yogesh Pagade, local fisherman.

Officials from the Taloja Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP), responsible for the treatment of sewage from all 977 industries, said that the pipeline was built in 1970 and has never been changed since. “The issue is at the source of the sewage. Most of the sewage empties out before reaching our plant and it is something that the pollution board and MIDC need to monitor. Whatever we receive is being effectively treated and discharged into Waghivali Creek,” said a senior CETP official.

He added that the while the industries generate 25 million litres per day (MLD) sewage, the Taloja CETP daily treats 20 MLD sewage. While 17MLD is released at Waghivali after treatment, the remaining amount is discarded as sludge and sent to dumping grounds. “The remaining 5MLD is currently being lost due to dysfunctional pipelines,” he said.

WHAT MIDC HAS TO SAY

In February this year, the state environment department directed the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) – an industrial infrastructure development agency of the state - to take over all effluent treatment plants under their domain from private industries. MIDC has powers to monitor and take decisions in every aspect with regard to efficient treatment of effluents from all industrial plants in the state.

“We are aware about the inefficient sewage treatment at Taloja and it existed before we took power. The tendering process is complete and work order has been issued to replace the originally constructed clay pipelines with plastic ones. We are spending Rs 70 crore for the project and it is expected to be complete within a year. A total of 43 pipelines will be changed from Taloja and remaining from surrounding industrial areas,” said Rajesh Zanzad, superintending engineer, MIDC.

Pollution at Kasadi River, near Taloja industrial plant, 13 times safe limit

A water quality test at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation found the waste treatment was inadequate. The levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — the concentration of oxygen required to sustain aquatic life — was 80 milligram a litre (mg/L). Levels of chloride, which is toxic, harms vegetation, aquatic life and wildlife, were also high.

The polluted water is also likely to affect human health. According to Central Pollution Control Board guidelines, fish die when BOD level are above 6 mg/L. Levels above 3 mg/L make the water unfit for human consumption. HT had reported that untreated industrial waste pumped out by the plant had raised pollution levels in the Kasadi River up to 13 times the safe limit.

First Published: Sep 01, 2017 11:27 IST