A joint monitoring committee appointed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) to probe the Styrene gas leakage incident from LG Polymers Ltd near R R Venkatapuram in Visakhapatnam on May 7 has pointed out numerous reasons that caused the gas leakage due to which 12 people died and thousands of people were hospitalised.
“Our observations revealed that the management did not take proper care of the affected storage tank and it resulted in auto polymerisation of styrene releasing excess heat which escaped from the goose-neck and dip hatch in the form of vapour,” stated the committee.
The committee was led by former High Court judge B. Seshasayana Reddy, with members Ch.V. Rama Chandra Murthy, former Principal of Andhra Medical College, P. Jagannadha Rao, professor of chemical engineering in Andhra University, K.V. George, Scientist at NEERI-Nagpur, and Shaik Basha, Scientist and Head of CSIR-NEERI, Hyderabad.
The committee found five lapses that caused the leakage—insufficient Tertiary Butyl Catechol (TBC) concentration in styrene tank due to unavailability of TBC in the plant (TBC is used as inhibitor to avoid polymerisation at low temperatures), no monitoring system for dissolved oxygen in the vapour space which might have fallen down below 6%, the tank has no provision of monitoring temperatures at top layers of the storage, refrigeration system was not being operated for 24 hours and gross human failure and negligence of the person in-charge of the plant and maintenance personnel of the storage tank.
An estimated, 800 tons of styrene escaped into the surroundings in the incident. The committee stated that the root cause appears to be the lack of experience of LG Polymers India and their Korean principal LG Chem, in monitoring and maintaining full tanks of styrene that were idled for a long period of several weeks without operation.
Suggesting remedial measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents, the experts noted: “The styrene metabolites are of genotoxic and can cause carcinogenic health impacts to the population exposed based on different factors. It is suggested that the industry shall prepare a comprehensive health monitoring programme along with reputed hospitals for the suspected population at least for five years. Based on the data and health results of the study, the monitoring may be continued. The district administration shall monitor the whole programme for its proper implementation.”
NGT has taken suo moto cognizance of the incident and on May 8, and ordered LG Polymers management to deposit Rs 50 crore with the district magistrate of Visakhapatnam. The case
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore to each of the families of victims who died in the incident, Rs 10 lakh to each of the severely affected persons getting ventilator-based treatment, Rs 1 lakh each to those persons who will need hospital care for next two-three days and Rs 25,000 each to all those hospitalised for primary care.
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