According to a statement from Save Ennore Creek Campaign, which is actively highlighting the Tangedco’s violations at Ennore Creek, sand samples collected from the “reclaimed” portion of the river contained 14.96 milligrams/kilogram (mg/kg) of arsenic, more than two times the Interim Sediment Quality Guideline (ISQG) for aquatic sediment of 7.24 mg/kg; 15.23 mg/kg of cadmium, more than 20 times ISQG; 23.54 mg/kg of copper which is 1.25 times ISQG; and 106.1 mg/kg of chromium, which is more than twice safe levels in aquatic sediments.
The ISQGs are safe threshold levels of chemicals above which they could cause toxic effects on aquatic life. The samples taken on July 14 were analysed at the Chester LabNet that is approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the group said.
A January 2020 report submitted to the NGT by a joint committee of Central Pollution Control Board and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had said that the sea sand which the Kamarajar Port dredged and dumped in Ennore Creek contained “very high concentrations” of magnesium, aluminium, potassium, chromium, lead and calcium, and “high concentrations” of other toxic metals like copper, nickel and zinc. The levels of these metals found in the samples taken from Tangedco’s dumpsite inside the river are far higher than even the “very high concentrations” reported by the joint committee, the activists said.
However, after inspecting the work to lay seawater pipeline to the Ennore SEZ power project following allegations, Electricity Minister V Senthilbalaji had said that Tangedco has been using materials approved by competent authority as landfill in waterbodies. “Fish is an inexpensive source of protein for the poor. Dumping contaminated sand in this section of the river is like poisoning their food. This is the place where we catch the fish that we sell in the market,” said RL Srinivasan, a fisherman from Kattukuppam.
When contacted, a senior Tangedco official said, “We are using only those materials approved for laying temporary roads to take up construction work in the waterbody.”
On July 19, fishers from Kattukuppam had occupied the site in Kosasthalai river that is illegally encroached by the coal conveyor corridor for Tangedco’s Ennore SEZ project. A three-member citizen panel wrote written to Chief Minister MK Stalin and Chief Justice of Madras HC Sanjib Banerjee, echoing the demands of the fishers. They had called for an immediate halt to further dumping and recommended the removal of dumped sand and restoration of the wetlands.