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Amid Acid Evacuation, Sterlite Moves HC, Claims Sabotage As Cause of Leak

Days after sulphuric acid leak at the Sterlite unit was detected, the collector said the clearing of the chemical which started last evening continued to be on, while the copper unit sought the court's approval to remove hazardous chemicals.

PTI

Updated:June 19, 2018, 11:11 PM IST
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Amid Acid Evacuation, Sterlite Moves HC, Claims Sabotage As Cause of Leak
File Photo: A view of the main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin,Tamil Nadu. (Image: Reuters )
Tuticorin/Madurai: Tuticorin District Collector Sandeep Nanduri today said evacuation of sulphuric acid from the Sterlite copper plant was on, even as the unit approached the High Court saying it suspected sabotage as the reason for acid leak. The unit said it was taking steps to challenge its closure.

Days after sulphuric acid leak at the Sterlite unit was detected, the collector said the clearing of the chemical which started last evening continued to be on, while the copper unit sought the court's approval to remove hazardous chemicals.

Nanduri said four tanker loads of the liquid has been removed from the premises. Temporary lighting arrangements have been made and the process of filling 11 tankers with the acid from the copper plant was on. Tankers were being mobilised continuously for evacuation of the acid, he added.

On June 17, authorities had said leak of sulphuric acid was detected at the Sterlite's copper plant in Tuticorin. Sterlite copper plant, meanwhile, filed a petition in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High court seeking access to authorised persons to its premises in Tuticorin to plug the leak and evacuate hazardous chemicals with police protection.

The copper firm moved the plea stating that the leakage could be due to sabotage. The company said it was taking steps to challenge the government order closing the company, cancelling the pollution control board consent and disconnection of electricity. Restoration of electricity, nod for its personnel to maintain the plant safely and to operate emergency services, were also sought by the firm.

When the district environment engineer asked the unit to control the sulphuric acid leak, the petitioner firm said they could not even inspect the premises as there was no power supply. The sulphuric acid was 98 per cent concentrated and needed to be handled very carefully. They required minimum power supply and man power to plug the leak, the firm said adding they also suspected that "the leakage could be due to sabotage."

Citing grave risk and danger in view of inflammable chemicals in the Tuticorin plant, the firm said there would be "catastrophic consequence in case of any accident." There were about eight tanks of sulphuric acid and if the leaked acid came in contact with water there would be fumes and extreme heat. Though the firm wanted to brief the officials about such aspects, the firm's representatives were not allowed to meet them due to "public sentiment."

Sterlite contended the "unplanned" closure of the plant where various chemicals had been stored and said that it was unable to access information in the factory to challenge the closure order. Following violence and police firing on May 22 and 23, in which 13 people died, the plant was closed by the state government.

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| Edited by: Padmaja Venkataraman
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