BHUBANESWAR: The Nalco’s smelter at Angul, the PSU’s heart of operation, is facing the threat of closure if it does not find ways to manage the humongous volume of fly ash its captive power plant (CPP) is generating. And it has to find a solution really fast.
The Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) has warned the aluminium major that the latter will be forced to close down the 1200-MW CPP unless it finds a way to dispose of the mind-boggling 7,000 metric tonne fly ash (equivalent to 700 truck-loads) it generates a day. “Over the past three years, we have been expressing grave concern over the problem of ash management in your CPP at Angul. With the present options available with you, it would not be possible to find space for ash disposal beyond May 2012,” the OSPCB letter to Nalco CMD BL Bagra said.
The Nalco sources said the Board made it clear that unless the PSU came up with some mechanism for large-scale evacuation of ash from the existing ponds immediately, it will be left with no option but to close down the CPP in a matter of three to four months.
“Nalco’s lean slurry disposal system is not likely to be operational before mid-2013. The high concentration slurry disposal (HCSD) system is also unlikely to be put in place in the near future and going by the report of the Ash Pond Safety Committee, we are not inclined to allow any further raising of dykes of the existing ash ponds,” Member-Secretary of OSPCB Sidhanta Das stated in the letter.
The Board had advised the company to pursue the matter with the National Highway Authority of India and the Works Department of the State for utilising fly ash for construction of new roads which is a mandatory as per the fly ash notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. However, the evacuation seems next to impossible for Nalco as it produces massive volumes of fly ash on a day-to-day basis. It has two ash ponds with dyke heights of 107 RL (Reduced Level which means a height above or below a datum). With massive generation, it has been seeking an increase in height which the Board has refused given the vulnerability of ponds which could cause disaster. In the past, ash pond breaches had led to serious hazards.
While ash pond one is completely filled up, the second one has reported cracks and subsidence. A third pond, for collection of overflow, is full too.