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Residents of Kadiramangalam in Thanjavur district, along with environmental activists, countered the claims made by ONGC regarding the June 30 oil spill in their village at a meeting here on Wednesday. Challenging ONGC’s claim on the promptness with which they plugged the leak, the residents presented lab study results of contaminated soil and water drawn from the spill site on July 9 and July 15 to show how a large proportion of hydrocarbon residue remained in the soil and water there, and the site had not been fully remediated.
Conducted by CVR Laboratories, a government-certified lab in Chennai, the analysis of soil samples drawn from the oil spill site in Kadiramangalam showed 1,118 mg/kg of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) in soil. About 50 feet away from the site of spillage, the soil showed 438 mg/kg of TPH. Similarly, surface water samples drawn from the site of spillage showed 33.9 mg/Lt of TPH, while 50 ft. away, mingled with rain water, surface water showed contamination of 2.4 mg/lt. The activists also tested two soil samples from a 10-year-old ONGC oil spill site in Thirupunjai, Thiruvarur district, to show hydrocarbon contamination of 1,760 mg/kg and 2,983 mg/kg respectively. According to the Environment Protection Agency, U.S., the permissible TPH limit for remediated soil is 5mg/kg.
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman said the oil spill had badly affected organic farmer Sriram Ramamoorthy and, as per organic farm certification standards, the soil and water in his field should have no hydrocarbon residues whatsoever. According to PGS India, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, which certifies organic farms, “pollution of organic product or land; or contact with any material that would render the product unsuitable for organic certification” will render the farm unfit for organic certification.
“As rain water mingles with the contaminated soil, the pollutants are flowing to the nearby fields, contaminating soil and water there as well,” Mr. Jayaraman said.
Kasturi, a resident of Kadiramangalam, told reporters that villagers are afraid their children might fall ill from breathing the contaminated air or drinking the polluted water. Natural gas measuring several thousand cubic metres had reportedly been released into the air.
She also refuted the ONGC claim that the oil spill leak could not be addressed immediately because villagers had blocked access to the site. “We were only demanding that the district collector should come and talk to us and were demanding accountability from ONGC and district administration on the damage caused to our fields. We are not trouble-makers,” she said.
A.P. Rajasekaran, spokesperson, ONGC Karaikal, told The Hindu that oil spilled on June 30 was washed and taken away within a few days. He assured that bio-remediation would be undertaken as per guidelines issued by the firm that certified the organic farms at the oil spill site. “Top soil will be removed as per the requirement of the affected farmer,” he said.
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