Sterlite moves Madras High Court for access to Tuticorin copper plant days after acid leak

Tuticorin/Madurai: Tuticorin District Collector Sandeep Nanduri on Tuesday 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.

 Sterlite moves Madras High Court for access to Tuticorin copper plant days after acid leak

File image of Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Tuticorin. Reuters

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 evacuation of the chemical which started on Monday evening continued, 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 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 17 June, 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 for 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's order of 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 environmental 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 percent concentrated and needed to 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."

Deprecating the "unplanned," closure where various chemicals had been stored, the plant contended that it was arbitrary and it was unable to access information in the factory to challenge the closure order.

Following violence and police firing on 22 and 23 May, in which 13 people died, the plant was closed by the state government.

Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 15:46:20 IST