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ONGC's activities contaminated soil, water in Tamil Nadu districts: Report

An oil spill on June 30 sparked a farmers' agitation in the region; ONGC says leak had been handled

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

ONGC oil spill
A previous oil spill off the coast of Chennai. File photo

Analysis of soil, groundwater, and surface water samples from Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, and Nagapattinam, in Tamil Nadu, shows that the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited's (CPCL's) hydrocarbon operations have harmed the environment, The Coastal Resource Centre (CRC) said on Wednesday. 

Further, the report by the CRC, which is a community environmental monitoring project of The Other Media, also stated that failed to "observe international best practices in responding to the June 30 oil spill leading to spread of contamination to public water courses and the Velloor irrigation canal".  

According to the findings, all seven samples, including four soil, two surface water, and one groundwater sample, were found to be contaminated by "hydrocarbons linked to oil extraction or refining".

According to the CRC, the report contradicted ONGC's claim that it attends to oil leaks promptly and that contaminated lands have been fully restored. Instead, the results of the analysis showed that farm land that was contaminated by an oil spill from more than 10 years ago still showed "exceedingly high" levels of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH). 

This is what the findings revealed: "Two soil samples were collected from a farm in Thirupunjai, Thiruvarur district, that was contaminated during an oil spill more than 10 years ago. The samples contained 1760 parts per million (or mg/kg) and 2983 mg/kg of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) respectively. The contaminated field had a perceptible odour of rancid petroleum. The soil was brittle, devoid of vegetation and had visible clumps of tar balls. Given that uncontaminated soils should have no trace of TPH, the levels found in the Thirupunjai field are exceedingly high and highlight the failure of to deploy remedial measures to restore the paddy lands...." 

"Uncontaminated surface water of irrigation quality or uncontaminated farmland soil should not contain any TPH," the report explained. 

The report also said that the had ignored repeated requests from farmers in the region to clean up the contamination, adding that the company's claim that villagers had prevented its teams from tending to the June 30 oil spill was not true. 

CRC claimed that the district administration had not acted against the offenders, in stead, it arrested protesting villagers. 

As reported in July, the state's political party leaders have asked the to shut its operations in the Thanjavur district following police action against people protesting an oil spill after a pipeline burst. 

According to a LiveMint report from earlier this month, police remains deployed at Kathiramangalam, which is located 60 Km from Thanjavur, where villagers have been protesting against since May.  

According to the report, the agitating villagers claim that ONGC's work in the region has contaminated their water and land. ONGC, for its part, blames "vested interests". the report added.

Referring to the June 30 oil leak, the report said that after the pipeline burst, the locals protested, only to be lathicharged by the police. The report added that 10 protesters were arrested.

First Published: Thu, August 10 2017. 12:35 IST