The TNPCB has asked HUL to undertake the trial for a period of three months in accordance with its Detailed Project Report (DPR) and to treat the soil to the maximum extent to reduce the mercury level not restricting to a level of 20 mg/kg. The trial will begin after preparatory work is undertaken and other statutory approvals are simultaneously processed.
The trial will be monitored by the Scientific Experts Committee (SEC), constituted by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, TNPCB and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the TNPCB will then review the results of the trial as per the data submitted by HUL. On getting the results, SEC will then decide on fixing of Site Specific Target Level (SSTL) and relevant monitoring process.
Commenting on TNPCB’s order, Mr. Dev Bajpai, Executive Director – Legal and Company Secretary, HUL, said, “We welcome TNPCB’s permission for commencing soil remediation on a trial basis as a step forward in the remediation process. HUL has been unwavering in its commitment to cleaning up the contaminated site in its former factory premises in a manner that is fully protective of the environment and human health.”
TNPCB had earlier asked HUL to prepare a DPR subsequent to a rigorous assessment process conducted by TNPCB with the SEC, and also after consultation with the CPCB – the foremost and nodal central organization that deals with issues concerning pollution control under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India.
Independent expert studies, including a study by Government of India’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in October 2015, have established that no environmental harm has been caused by HUL’s former factory in Kodaikanal, except within the factory premises. .
In July 2008, TNPCB had granted permission for remediation of the soil in the factory premises. Pre-remediation work had commenced at the site. However, this process was stalled due to concerns raised by the NGOs. In order to address these concerns, TNPCB had advised HUL to commission additional studies with eminent national institutions.
The regulatory process for soil remediation was based on a review of additional studies conducted by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Delhi, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow and the Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation Research Centre, Ooty (formerly called Central Soil and Water Conservation Research & Training Institute). These institutions had been engaged as directed by TNPCB and the SEC subsequent to their project review meeting in January 2010.
IIT Delhi revalidated the Risk Assessment Study and site specific clean-up standard; National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, studied the impact on trees and preservation of trees; and the Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation Research Centre, Ooty, studied the impact on soil and soil erosion. The findings of these additional studies were submitted to TNPCB and SEC in February 2011.
TNPCB and SEC reviewed the findings of these additional studies and had consulted with the CPCB and subsequently directed HUL to submit a revised DPR in May 2015. HUL submitted the DPR in August 2015.