Confirm Toxicity In Sludge
From Coke Plant
By P. Venugopal
The Hindu, India
07 August, 2003
by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) have confirmed recent
media reports about the toxic nature of the sludge generated by Coca-Cola's
bottling plant at Plachimada, in Kerala's Palakkad district.
The KSPCB undertook
the tests following a report put out by the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC) last month that the sludge and drinking water samples collected
from Plachimada contained "dangerous" levels of cadmium, a
known carcinogen, besides lead, which can damage the human central nervous
Beverages Private Limited had been distributing the sludge to the farmers
of the area free of cost to be used as fertilizer, terming it a "humanitarian
gesture to the local community". Thousands of tonnes of this waste
material were off-loaded in the fields of the region over the last three
years.Announcing the results of the analysis at a press conference here
today, the Chairman of the KSPCB, Paul Thachil, said that the concentration
of cadmium was found to be 201.8 mg in a kg of dry sludge.
This level is, in
fact, far greater than that reported by the BBC after tests done at
Exeter University in the United Kingdom. These tests had shown the concentration
of cadmium as 100 mg a kg of dry sludge."A solid is classified
as hazardous material if it contains over 50 mg of cadmium a kg. There
is no doubt that the sludge is extremely hazardous. We have ordered
the company to stop supplying it as manure to the farmers," Mr.
He said that in
the analysis done at the KSPCB's Central Laboratory in Ernakulam, the
presence of lead was found to be below the threshold limit. Lead concentration
was found to be 319 mg a kg of dry sludge against a threshold level
of 500 mg a kg as per standards prescribed in India.
The tests conducted
at Exeter University had shown a lead concentration of 1,100 mg a kg."Results
can vary from sample to sample. But the important point is that we have
proof about the hazardous nature of the waste material. We have ordered
the company to keep the sludge in leech-free tanks so that it does not
contaminate the soil and water sources in the area. There should be
a mechanism for proper disposal of this highly hazardous material,"
Mr. Thachil said.
Asked what the KSPCB
proposed to do in the light of its findings, Mr. Thachil said: "We
have already got the company to stop the dangerous practice of distributing
the toxic sludge to the farmers.
A detailed probe
is on to determine the source of the cadmium contamination."
He said the Health
Department had been alerted about the findings. "We have subsequently
collected water samples from the open wells in the colonies adjoining
the bottling plant for analysis. The results are awaited. The question
whether the soft drinks manufactured at the bottling plant are safe
does not come under our purview. It is to be looked into by the Health
Department," he said.
The bottling plant
has been in the eye of a storm following complaints that it was exploiting
the scarce water in the area, extracting it through borewells and open
wells, leading to the depletion of the water table.The local panchayat
recently withdrew permission for the plant to operate there.There have
been complaints about contamination of well water in the area, but the
company has stridently denied this.
Meanwhile, the global environmental action group, Greenpeace, asked
the Kerala Government to direct Coca-Cola to collect back the entire
hazardous waste it had distributed. It should be stored with proper
precautions, the corporate campaign coordinator of Greenpeace, Ameer
Shahul, said in a statement faxed to Thiruvananthapuram . No longer
should the unsuspecting people of the region be exposed to the dangers
of this waste, he added.Mr. Shahul said the Government should persuade
the company to dispose of the sludge in a safe manner. "Coca-Cola
has no right to defile this beautiful land with its hazardous waste.
The company should
be forced to ship the sludge back to the U.S., its home country",
he said.He urged the Government to convene a meeting of the affected
people, representatives of non-governmental organisations and officials
of the KSPCB and departments such as Health and Local Administration
in order to formulate a plan to tackle the damage the company had done
to the region.