Midday Impact: Mahad village gets clean water after new pipeline is installed

Updated: Dec 28, 2017, 09:59 IST | Faisal Tandel

Following mid-day's report on effluents destroying villages, authorities propose a new and safer pipeline for chemicals

Local MLA Bharat Gogaonkar visits the chemical treatment plant in Mahad
Local MLA Bharat Gogaonkar visits the chemical treatment plant in Mahad

Just two days after mid-day highlighted how a chemical waste pipeline was poisoning the food and water in Mahad, things are finally starting to look up. Not only has the water suddenly become cleaner, but the local MLA visited the area yesterday to take stock of the situation. What's more, the authorities are now planning to build a Rs 71-crore pipeline to prevent future chemical leaks.

Locals said that while MLA Bharat Gogaonwale visited the CETP, he did not bother to visit the villages affected by the pollution
Locals said that while MLA Bharat Gogaonwale visited the CETP, he did not bother to visit the villages affected by the pollution

After years of choking on chemicals from the leaking pipeline, the villagers noticed that their water had become cleaner immediately after this paper reported on their plight. "Since mid-day's report, the water is suddenly cleaner, and doesn't stink. Why couldn't the authorities clean it earlier?" a villager questioned.

This reporter had earlier reported how the village had fallen prey to cancer, asthma, paralysis and complications in pregnancy, ever since the chemical pipeline began leaking. The pipeline carries chemical waste from the MIDC factories and passes through 28 villages in Mahad, before emptying its contents into the sea. Locals complained that the pipeline bursts open several times a day at various locations, exposing them to the harmful compounds inside. Some also alleged that the waste was not being treated properly at the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP).

Yesterday, local MLA Bharat Gogaonwale (Shiv Sena) visited the CETP and gave it a clean chit. Gogaonkar told mid-day, "After the report in this paper, I visited the plant and saw that the treatment of the waste is being done properly. There is a problem with the pipeline's air valves, which are releasing air and causing problems to the villagers."

However, locals took exception to the fact that while Gogaonwale had visited the CETP, he had not bothered to visit the villages that had been impacted by the pollution. One of the villagers said, "He is our representative, so he should demand an investigation instead of giving a clean chit to the treatment plant. Why did he go to the CETP when he is yet to visit our villages or meet the victims?"

He added, "The MLA should first check the situation on the ground before supporting the factories. Who elected him; us or the industries? Either way, investigations are on, and the chemical analysis report will make the truth clear." The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) collected samples of the chemical effluents from the pipeline and has sent it to Mumbai for analysis. MH Patil, senior police inspector, Mahad Taluka police station, said, "The MPCB gave us a letter stating that they have sent samples of the water to the forensic lab in Mumbai. It will take around 15 days for the report to arrive. If they learn that someone is at fault and then complain to us, we will register a case."

Blame game begins
Meanwhile, SD Pathare, chairman of the CETP, claims the treatment plant is doing its job and it is the pipeline that is to blame for the pollution. The CETP is run by a government-private partnership, while the pipeline is under the MIDC. He claimed that since the CETP was established the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) of the effluents had dropped from 3,000 COD to 250 COD. (In environmental chemistry, the COD is an indicative measure of pollutants; the lower the level, the better it is.)

"The pipeline is old and is worn out because of continuous use. This results in leaks from the air valves. The MIDC has even drilled into the pipe and made open vents. This releases the treated water near the villagers' homes. They fear that this water is harmful, but it has been treated properly at the CETP," he said.

However, he later contradicted this and said that the treated water had indeed caused damage to the villages. He claimed, "The pipe's discharge point should be in the deep sea, but instead it releases the waste close to the shore. The high tide brings this water into the villages, resulting in damage."

New pipeline
An MIDC official told this reporter that these issues will be solved by building a new pipeline that will go deeper into the sea. It was after repeated queries from mid-day that the authorities floated the proposal for a new pipe at a meeting with the villager last Thursday. The meeting was attended by more than 50 villagers, including the sarpanch of each of the villages, local cops, and officials from MIDC, MPCB, CETP and the Tehsildar and Talati's offices. "We have proposed building a new pipeline for Rs 71 crore. But this is still on the drawing board, and it will take time to implement," said sources in the MIDC.

He added, "Like the villagers, we too are suffering. We are just courier companies that transport the chemical waste from one point to another. The pipeline is old and can't handle the load of the growing number of factories. There are other issues too. Today, a telecom company dug up the road and the pipeline burst. How can we work in such conditions? We also tried to install new air valves at two problem areas in Juhi and Ghote, but the villagers don't allow us to do anything."

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