Following detection of an acid leak at the Vedanta-owned Sterlite unit in Tuticorin, the company on Wednesday approached the Madras High Court seeking minimum manpower and power restoration at the smelter. The leak — seepage from the sulphuric acid tank — was reportedly taking place since few days with the government directing various bodies, including the state pollution control board officials, to control the situation.
The copper firm moved the plea stating that the leakage could be due to “sabotage” and sought access for its personnel to maintain the plant’s safety and operate its emergency services. Calling for a restoration of power in the unit, the company in its petition said they could not inspect the premises as there was no electricity.
The company had already asked the government authorities to let its personnel enter the plant to fix the problem, but they were denied the permission due to “public sentiment.” “We have had no access to the plant ever since it was suddenly sealed and locked with effect from May 28, 2018,” the company said in a statement.
Citing grave risk and danger in view of inflammable chemicals in the Tuticorin plant, the firm said there would be “catastrophic consequence in case of any accident”. There were about eight tanks of sulphuric acid and if the leaked acid came in contact with water there would be fumes and extreme heat, the company added.
Tuticorin District Collector Sandeep Nanduri, however, said there was no reason to worry and that the leak detected on Monday morning was a “minor” one. He also said that temporary lighting arrangements have been made and the process of filling 11 tankers with the acid from the copper plant was on. Four tankers filled with liquid has already been removed from the premises he added.
The government ordered the closure of the unit last month after 13 people were killed in police firing during the anti-Sterlite protests.