Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding remediation of mercury contamination, Hindustan Unilever, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, 01/11/2018

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Navroz Mody Vs Union of India & Others dated 01/11/2018 regarding remediation of mercury contamination on account of manufacture of thermometers by M/s Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) at Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. The applicant, a local resident, moved this Tribunal on 25.01.2017 objecting to the remediation work undertaken by HUL. It was also prayed that remediation procedures should be as per applicable guidelines in standards. The matter was considered with regard to the standard to be applied. The Tribunal noted that there are conflicting opinions. According to one opinion, the remediation standard to be applied was 20-25 mg/kg and according to the other, it was 6 mg/kg.

The Tribunal had directed CPCB to obtain an expert opinion from an institute having expertise in Mercury contamination. In the report filed by CPCB the experts unanimously has said that screening level of 6.6 mg/kg could not be treated as a remediation standard. Accordingly, the CPCB had recommended as follows:

(i) To permit remediation of mercury contaminated soil in the premises of closed thermometer factory and its adjoining areas to the recommended remediation target level of 20 mg/kg (total mercury) with valid authorization from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

(ii) Considering the reported environmental impacts in Pambar Shola river in down gradient of closed thermometer factory, it is proposed that a detailed site assessment be carried out to ascertain the extent of contamination and if required, an ecological risk assessment study may also be carried out.

National Green Tribunal accepts the opinion of the CPCB and says that action may now be taken in terms of the above recommendation.