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India: Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) failed to achieve even the ‘liberal’ 20 mg/kg mercury clean in Kodaikanal

Author: SV Krishna Chaitanya, The New Indian Express, Published on: 15 January 2019

"Unending fallout of defunct thermometer factory at Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu", 17 January 2018

The three-month soil remediation trials carried out by Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) in the now-defunct thermometer factory at Kodaikanal failed to achieve even the ‘liberal’ 20 mg/kg mercury clean-up standard...Noted environmentalist...said a careful analysis of the information provided by HUL and TNPCB [Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board] reveals that the trial run was not merely a failure, but may have mobilised more mercury into environment than it recovered...

...Air quality data presented by TNPCB finds that air mercury levels in three out of five workspaces inside the factory exceeded the safe workplace mercury vapour levels of 0.05 mg/m3 prescribed in the Factories Act. The Soil Wash Area recorded a reading of 0.1 mg/m3 – two times higher than levels at which work has to be stopped...[A] bulk of the mercury has been transferred from the soil to the water medium, even as the Scientific Experts Committee and TNPCB have focused their attention only on retort.

In an e-mail response to Express, HUL spokesperson said the company has been able to achieve the soil remediation standard of 20 mg/kg as directed by TNPCB and said the argument that 20 mg/kg is a liberal standard was incorrect. “TNPCB and SEC with the help of leading scientific experts have arrived at the standard of 20 mg/kg. The clean-up process followed by HUL is based on best practices adopted globally...Scientific Experts panel has agreed Unilever to submit an up scaling plan for final remediation to 20 mg/kg ignoring the trial remediation failure.

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Related companies: Hindustan Unilever Unilever