Northern Power Co flags off baseless allegations over Jaffna water contamination

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 01:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Baseless allegations have been raised with the ulterior motive to mislead the people of Jaffna against Northern Power Company Ltd., falsely claiming the power plant located at Chunnakkam (Jaffna) is causing pollution of the wells located two to three km away from the plant. “As Northern Power Company Ltd., we deny outright these baseless charges raised by parties with vested interests and not a single charge has been so far accepted by Courts. As all evidence presented to Court even points to another location as being the source of contamination, the company is not in any way liable for the said situation,” MTD Walkers PLC Director/CEO Lal Perera said. Northern Power Co commenced construction work on the power plant in 2007 amidst the conflict situation when no company or individual was willing to even venture into the north taking all risks to provide much-needed power to the people of Jaffna. Generation commenced around May 2009 and a larger population which had suffered severe hardships for over 15 years had electricity in their homes. “We were the company at that time that contributed the major amount of power as there was no other source and Jaffna was not connected to the national grid till almost 2012. The company went through many hardships, especially with no road transport facility being available and having to transport all material and personnel by air or sea.” The power plant is operated with all the proper environmental licenses and approvals in place which is issued on an annual basis with quarterly checks carried out based out on the conditions required by the licensing authority/ies. “Unfortunately, the allegation is that the waste oil from the plant is being discharged to the ground and that this was causing the pollution of wells that are located many kilometers away. We wish to state clearly that all our waste oil is collected in overhead tanks and disposed by sale and taken away by third parties and absolutely nothing is discharged to the ground. Waste oil fetches a price as it is used for firing furnaces and the company makes revenue from its sale and will not be deprived of the revenue by discharging it to the ground. If we can earn extra profits by selling waste oil, why would a commercial venture such as ours throw away valuable oil?” The system and procedure adopted for the discharge of the waste oil by the power plant can be viewed by anyone and the Mallkam Magistrate has personally visited the plant and ascertained for himself that there is no discharge of waste oil to the ground. “Unfortunately the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) and the Public Health Inspector (PHI) who are not specialists in this field of engineering are making this ludicrous allegation that oil is being discharged by us with absolutely no form of evidence to support their claim. They are basically making this claims based on hearsay but without any scientific methodology being employed to identify the root cause of the contamination and by whom.” It was also highlighted that due to the simple fact that Jaffna has been connected to the national grid, the power plant is being used mainly during the peak loading times and as such with the power plant operating only for few hours, there will not be waste oil volumes significant enough to affect wells three km away. “However, we wish to highlight that a large oil lake (oil kulam) existed within the previous State-run power plant premises before Northern Power commenced operations. This ‘lake’ contained a large amount of oil as indicated even in the Google maps taken over a period of time and has been presented to Courts as well. Subsequently in and around 2012 the area was filled with earth and compacted and a new substation was built by the Government on this premises. Unfortunately, to date no one has questioned or researched in to finding out what happened to this large quantity of oil that was contained in this ‘oil lake’.” “We are strongly of the opinion that there is an unseen hand that is misleading the public of the area with some ulterior motive unknown to us to hinder our operation that is being carried out meeting all the procedural and statutory requirements required by the laws of Sri Lanka.” The company proposed that an independent committee comprising of specialists in the fields of environment, water resources, geologists and waste management be appointed to carry out an in-depth analysis of the problem using modern scientific techniques and ascertain the root cause of the contamination if really there is one and if so how and who has caused and also what remedial action can be taken to mitigate this contamination. “We wish to reassert that company and its parent company – MTD Walkers PLC – is always committed towards working in the interest of all stakeholders while maintaining the highest standards of corporate ethics and good governance.”