Hon. Justice. C. V. Wigneswaran
Chief Minister of Northern Province
Office of the Chief Minister
Water pollution issue at Chunnakam
I am writing to you on this matter on personal capacity as a Specialist in the relevant field (Community Medicine) and as the President of the Jaffna Medical Association. When this issue was brought to my notice in November 2014, I contacted the Health Ministry Officials in Colombo and arranged for samples to be collected from the suspected wells and to be reported by the Government Analyst. In addition I organized a symposium with relevant stake holders and researchers to discuss this most serious public health problem affecting Jaffna during the Annual Sessions of the Jaffna Medical Association in December 2014. Several medical professionals and other technical experts attended this symposium and were enlightened on this escalating problem. At the same time a report containing detailed analysis of the ground water quality conducted by the Regional Laboratory of the National Water Supply and Drainage Board, Jaffna from 2012 to 2014 was released and proved that the wells around the Chunnakam fossil fuel power station have been contaminated not only with petroleum waste but also through lead a toxic heavy metal. A subsequent epidemiological research by me and other researchers (abstract annexed) provided further evidence that the power plant area is the point source for contamination and disproved alternative arguments that the ground water in Chunnakam could have been contaminated by other sources such as filling stations in the area.
While waiting for the reports from the Government Analyst, may I suggest the following for your kind consideration and urgent action.
1. To locate the places where the toxic waste products were dumped and initiate early action to remove those products safely. There is sufficient evidence to prove that a huge pool containing the petroleum effluents existed in 2012 within the Chunnakam CEB area and that disappeared without any trace. The CEB and their subcontractors should explain how this disappeared and how that leads to continuing spread from the same location as shown by our research.
2. To seal the wells showing evidence of Lead contamination. The report by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board, Jaffna stated that out of the 50 wells tested for lead contamination 4 wells showed lead levels above the accepted limits. It is very important to locate these wells without delay and seal them to prevent from any kind of use as lead has the potential of entering the food chain and causing toxicity even if the polluted wells are used for agriculture or other purposes. Further all the wells in the affected area should be tested for evidence of lead and other heavy metals.
3. To provide water in sufficient quantity (at least 3-4 litres per person for drinking purpose) and in satisfactory quality to all the residents in the affected area
4. To use water filters in the affected area. As it is not practically possible to distribute water to all the polluted areas and since there have been allegations of oil contamination in the water supplied by the water board, cheap activated carbon filters could be used for domestic purposes. Activated carbon filters have been used to clean oil contamination and reduce lead in water for home use (1), (2), (3), (4).
5. To issue leaflets to the public in the area providing accurate scientific information in simple terms while allaying their anxiety.
6. To initiate legal action against those who are responsible for this pollution and make them accountable by providing suitable compensation to the affected people.
As President of the Jaffna Medical Association along with other medical experts and researchers I look forward to support your efforts to solve this problem.
Dr. Murali Vallipuranathan
MBBS, PGD (Population Studies). MSc, MD (Community Medicine), FCCP
President, Jaffna Medical Association
Board Certified Specialist in Community Medicine
16, 4/5, Vanderwart Place
1. Dr.Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health
2. Dr. P.G. Mahipala, DGHS, Ministry of Health
3. President, Government Medical Officer’s Association
4. President, Sri Lanka Medical Association
5. President, College of Community Physicians
6. Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna
7. Dr.S.Sivakumar, Head, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Jaffna
8. Dr.A.Ketheeswaran, RDHS, Jaffna