CHENNAI: The Thiruneermalai Lake, which remained dry for the most part during summer, suddenly turned dark green after chemical effluents from an outlet pipe were discharged into the lake non-stop for three days from Monday. On Wednesday, when Express visited the spot, the effluents were seen gushing into the 150-acre lake. When members of the social welfare group, ‘Thiruneermalai Nanbar Kuzhu,’ were cleaning the lake on Monday morning, they spotted the inflow of effluents. Immediately they informed the Water Resources Department about the issue. The WRD, following an inspection, found that the inflow was from the outlet pipe of the Madras Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) in Tambaram.
‘’Till Friday, the water in the lake was near nil, but now the lake is filling up with effluents and it’s going to be a tasking process to clear the chemicals,’’ said V Pugalventhan, who first spotted the effluents. He added that agriculture in Thiruneermalai was completely dependent on the lake water and now it would be impossible for farmers to start afresh. The social welfare group and residents had submitted multiple petitions to the WRD to desilt the lake during the summer as medical waste and sewage outflow had abundantly contaminated the lake over the years. Last October, following a TNIE report on MEPZ discharging effluents into the lake, one of the pipes was shut down.
MEPZ at it again?
Following an inspection on Tuesday, the WRD found that the effluents were indeed coming from the MEPZ outlet pipe. “MEPZ has been the repeat offender and we have been giving them continuous notices but they still discharge effluents,’’ said a senior WRD official. Armed with visual evidence and sample of the effluents, the WRD official said a complaint against MEPZ would be passed on to the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board next week. ‘’In a few days, we will ensure the outlet pipe is shut down,’’ said the official.
The WRD has constituted a ‘water group’ consisting of environmental experts and retired WRD engineers including Elangovan, who retired as a special chief engineer. “The group has the best knowledge about the lake and they have already started charting out plans to desilt the lake,’’ said the official.
Officials deny role
However, MEPZ denied any role of its outflow pipes in the effluent discharge, although the PWD has pointed out that the effluent is discharged by the former. “Recently, cleaning works were on in the Kadapperi Eri and the flow of discharge from its pipes was diverted through the pipes of MEPZ,’’ said an MEPZ official.
The official added that MEPZ had a 1.5-MLD treatment plant and they did not let out any untreated effluents into the lake. ‘’We also inspected the area from where the sewage is being discharged and MEPZ has no role to play in this,’’ said the official. Visual evidence with Express, however, clearly shows that the outflow from the pipes was not sewage but chemicals. Additionally, the 2018 TNIE report too had substantiated the role of MEPZ in letting out untreated effluents.
Residents throng site
As condition of the lake got worse in the past three days due to the non-stop outflow, a group of residents and senior citizens, including a retired government officer, thronged the MEPZ for an immediate solution. “The effluent outflow has to stop right away and desilting has to begin,’’ said N Perumal, a retired Revenue Officer. When contacted, a TNPCB official said that steps would be taken to ensure effluents are not discharged into the lake.