Vedanta warns of severe acid leak at Sterlite plant, wants power restored

Vedanta has warned of catastrophe if the Tamil Nadu government and the district authorities continued to ignore a sulphuric acid leak from a tank at its Thoothukudi copper smelter plant, which was closed by the government in May, following anti-Sterlite protests.

The company has sought restoration of electricity supply to the plant to plug the leak. The company also contradicted the Thoothukudi collector's his earlier view that the leak was minor.
Vedanta said the sulphuric acid leak from a tank at its Thoothukudi copper smelter plant was severe and inaction could lead to serious environmental consequences.
On 17 June, the Thoothukudi district administration said the leak at the Sterlite Copper plant was minor, and steps were being taken to empty the storage tanks as a safety precaution (See: TN orders closure of Sterlite's copper smelter in Thoothukudi). 
“There is a severe leakage in the pipe flanges and ... the pipe flanges are submerged in the acid pool collected in the dykes around the acid storage tank,” the company said in a petition to the Madras High Court.
The Tamil Nadu government ordered a permanent closure of the plant and disconnected the power supply in May following the death of 13 protesters against the plant in police firing.
Vedanta, the Indian subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources, said it sought a limited reconnection of the electricity supply for maintenance to guard against a potential loss of life and damage to air and ground water. “There is a grave risk and danger as there are other tanks and there are flammable chemicals and materials within the plant area,” it said.
Thoothukudi district collector Sandeep Nanduri, however, stuck to his earlier view that the leak was minor. “That is their version, and this is ours. However, we are completely evacuating the sulphuric acid from all tanks as a safety precaution,” he said.
Locals and environmental activists have demanded a permanent shutdown of the plant, which they said was causing air and water pollution. They also see the smelter as a risk to fisheries.
Vedanta says the protests are based on false notions and that the plant is causing no major threat to the environment.