CHENNAI: Residents living around the Hindustan Petroleum outlet on Rajendra Prasad road in Nehru Nagar, Chromepet first noticed a pungent petroleum smell in the water from their wells and borewells in 2015.
Two years on, the smell remains and even a test by the Pallavaram Municipality has confirmed hydrocarbon contamination of the underground water in the locality. But no action has been taken against the petroleum company which has an outlet in the residential area.
A water test conducted in July revealed that two of the four samples collected from wells and borewells from houses neighbouring the outlet tested positive for ‘hydrocarbon smell’.
The Pallavaram Municipality on receiving complaints contacted the Chief Water Analysis Laboratory in Guindy which took samples on July 24 from Panchavati apartment, Ramalayam apartment and two independent houses around the outlet.
Based on the results of the test which confirmed hydrocarbon contamination, K Sivakumar, the municipality commissioner has written to Hindustan Petroleum’s Chennai branch on August 28 asking them to fix the petrol tanks and underground piping in the outlet to avoid further contamination. The letter, affixed with the lab results of the recent test, threatened legal action if the problem persists.
When contacted by Express, a senior Hindustan Petroleum official denied any contamination of groundwater by its petrol bunk. “We have even got a certificate from the pollution control board. Even Kings Institute has certified that the issue has been resolved,” said the official.
When the same issue was raised in 2015, a letter from Hindustan Petroleum blamed that the pollution could be due to the effluents released by tanneries in Chromepet. “Despite an all clear from the inspection team from HP, we changed the piping and taps in 2016,” said A K Karunakaran, the proprietor of Mahalakshmi agencies, the outlet. The agency is only responsible for sale and it is the responsibility of the petroleum company for maintenance and repairs of the outlet. “We are required to inform HP for even the smallest repairs. They send a team to fix it,” said Karunakaran, who has signed a 30 year lease with HP.
While the government agencies were still figuring out the problem, the pollution is already causing the residents much. Residents in Ramaniyam apartment, one of the locations which tested positive for hydrocarbon smell have had to set up a filter mechanism to purify the groundwater while Panchavati apartment residents buy water since the borewell water is unusable.
“The water has a strange smell and sometimes it overwhelming. We don’t want our children to develop complications so we buy water,” said a resident who wishes to remain anonymous. “We have forwarded a copy of the test results which prove the contamination of groundwater to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) so they can take cognizance of this persisting issue and take action,” said Karuppiah Raja, municipal engineer, Pallavaram Municipality.
The TNPCB when contacted by the Express, said that they were aware of the issue and will be conducting independent tests and cancel clearances for the operation of the outlet if seepage is proven. “We shut down a outlet in Ashok Nagar sometime back for seepage and pollution of groundwater, we will be conducting tests in this outlet in Nehru Nagar and if standards are found to be compromised we willnot think twice and cancel the clearance they have obtained,” said a joint chief environmental engineer from the TNPCB.