The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), which has to present its side at the hearing at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune, on July 8, on pollution levels in industrial areas, has demanded in writing from the Additional Ambernath Manufacturers Association (AAMA) a timeframe to clean the toxic sludge from the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), Ambernath.

The main gate of the CETP is now locked. Pic/Sameer Markande
The main gate of the CETP is now locked. Pic/Sameer Markande

The sludge accumulated in the CETP for over a decade is threatening the existence of 900 businesses in MIDC.

AAMA, however, considers this demand a pressure tactic by the MPCB. AAMA has instead decided to present its own side to the NGT at the hearing next week.

mid-day had reported last week about the pollution control board slapping a notice against AAMA after finding out that the CETP had not been cleaned for more than 10 years.

Umesh Tayade, president, AAMA, confirmed receiving a phone call from a senior MPCB official, who asked AAMA for a written plan to operate CETP and ensure the pollution levels are maintained.

Tayade said, “Just 24 hours before the matter was to be heard, MPCB decided it wanted to safeguard itself by putting pressure on AAMA. I am a resident of Ambernath. How can I stay quiet when my own house is getting polluted because of the untreated industrial waste? AAMA is doing everything possible. We have decided to intervene and submit our say before the NGT on July 1. AAMA, too, is concerned about the seriousness of the issue and hence are keen to do everything possible to make CETP workable to stop businesses from shutting down and save 50,000 jobs.”

He said, “We have time and again told MPCB why we have not been able to operate the CETP fully, primarily because the earlier operator M/s Ambernath MIDC CETP Co. Pvt Ltd has locked the main gate of the CETP and now even police protection has been called off, making things extremely difficult for us.”

AAMA officials revealed that they have already spent lakhs on procuring chemicals and other materials needed to keep the testing laboratory operational at the CETP plant and are also in the process of hiring experts for the same.

Also, the heavy pumping machinery that was already in place at the nearby collection sump (starting point for collection of industrial waste before it is sent to the CETP for further purification), have become defunct and AAMA had to procure additional pumps.

As tonnes of sludge remain to the removed, it will be very difficult to maintain the standards prescribed by MPCB and keep pollution under control.

When contacted, MPCB Joint Director Yashwant Sontake said, “The pollution levels are not under control and hence it is a matter of concern for MPCB.” He refused to elaborate saying the matter is sub-judice.

However a senior official from MPCB on condition of anonymity said, “We have been asking AAMA for a detailed line of action and a plan in writing to bring the pollution levels under control as per norms, but they haven’t submitted any plan yet and are instead pleading helplessness in operating the CETP, which is not MPCB’s concern. We will decide on a further course of action after consultation with our seniors.”

AAMA said, “We have already submitted a detailed written plan to MPCB on June 3, citing our plan of action, but instead of helping us achieve the goal, unwanted pressure is being put on us.”

Another senior MPCB official pointed out that as of June 13, 2016, the level of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), maintained by CETP, MIDC was 725.0 mg of BOD (which is high above the prescribed standard of 500 mg) and 908 mg of COD (which is above the prescribed standard of 750 mg) and this clearly indicates that the CETP is a major cause for concern.