The pollution of groundwater through the alleged dumping of waste-oil by the Chunnakam Power Plant, a subsidiary of Walker and Sons and a contractor for the Ceylon Electricity Board, has been litigated for some years now. Issues were whether the water is really polluted, and if so by whom.
Yesterday, Tuesday 30 May, the Mallakam Magistrate, A. Judeson, ordered the police to arrest the officials of the Power Plant responsible for this pollution and produce them in court on the next date of hearing, June 27.
In addition he ordered three things:
1) Fresh drinking water be supplied to people living within a 2 km radius of the power station.
2) Since it is suspected that the polluting oil in the groundwater is moving northwards, officials in charge of the environment should have their attention drawn so as to facilitate suitable remedial action.
3) Complaints by the public should be examined by such environmental agency officials in collaboration with water supply and drainage and health officials.
Following the Magistrate’s determination, a puzzled member of the public asked how the Expert Panel appointed by Northern Provincial Council concluded that there is no pollution. He also wondered why the NPC appointed experts with no expertise relevant to examining the purity of water. Moreover, one of the experts so appointed by the NPC, a Dean at University of Jaffna, has a conflict of interest in the task assigned since he had been a consultant to the power company. Besides, having no knowledge of analysing water, why did he accept the assignment?
An Analytical Chemist, who had once been in charge of testing water served to visiting state dignitaries for potability, said that although the tests are simple, statistical and sampling errors are common and at least two independent labs must do the testing separately for rigorous confidence.
Concluded a Water Engineer, the Expert Panel Report merely delayed this urgent addressing of the needs of the public, now thankfully ordered by the Magistrate. (By Muraleetharan Puvinathan)