(Feature Image: Untreated effluents from Kunli CETP area being discharged into storm water drain along DN 8. However, unaware of its source, the plant officials claim the CETP has been working fine, the treated effluents are within prescribed norms and it has separate closed pipelines to dispose treated effluents. Image by Bhim Singh Rawat, May 13, 2023)
In May 2019, SANDRP had published a detailed account of how a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) of 4 million liter per day (MLD) capacity located in Phase IV of Kundli industrial area in Sonepat, Haryana was dumping untreated industrial effluents into drain number (DN) 6 and subsequently contaminating Yamuna river and Delhi’s potable water supply in DN 8.
Exactly after four years, SANDRP revisited the same CETP to assess the current status. This report highlights the key issues found during the field visit.
In May 2019, the CETP was found bypassing the untreated effluents into DN 6. Receiving more than 5 MLD effluents, malfunctioning of a pumping motor and repairing of an equalization tank were cited among reasons behind the situation by the care taker of the plant at that time.
By May 13, 2023, the CETP has been upgraded into 10 MLD treatment capacity by Haryana State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) at a reported cost of Rs. 23.70 crore. The contract of upgradation, operation and maintenance has been given to Subhash Infra-engineers Pvt. Ltd (SIPL) for the next five years till May 2027.
“In past two years, all the infrastructures and installation of machinery has almost been completed and within couple of days the plant would be fully and officially operational”, informed Mr. Nilesh Kumar, Manager of the CETP. He further said that currently the plant is receiving about 9.5 MLD of industrial effluents.
Indeed, the plant has got a bigger screening plant, automated motors, renovated control center, upgraded laboratory, a repaired equalization tank with stainless steel materials where required. In addition, 2 new aeration tanks, a new oil and gas trap, a flocculator, a flash mixer, a sludge dewatering mechanism, an activated carbon filter, new diesel generator set and computerized monitoring systems etc. has also been set up.
Separate Pipelines for disposal of ‘treated’ effluents & storm water
Furthermore, following the intervention of National Green Tribunal (NGT) set up committee, HSIIDC has laid about 2.5 km long closed pipe lines after filling up DN 6 to dispose of ‘treated’ water and storm water separately which ultimately joins Yamuna via supplementary drain downstream of Wazirabad barrage.
While ‘treated’ effluents from the CETP would be disposed through the two small RCC hume pipes of about 1 feet diameter; one single RCC hume pipe of about 2 feet diameter is placed to carry the storm water. In case of leakages, damages and floods the waste water will enter into DN 8 and reach the river near Palla in Delhi.
Old Problems Remain Unresolved
None utilization of ‘treated’ water has emerged as possibly the biggest issue raising questions over the whole upgradation exercise. In principle the CETPs are supposed to make it possible to recycle and reuse the ‘treated’ water, in Kundli CETP case, it is simply being discharged into DN 6 via closed pipes.
May 2019 video showing untreated industrial effluents being dumped in drain number 6.
The HSIIDC has no plan in place to supply the ‘treated’ water to the local industries. For operation and other purposes, the plant itself consumes about 5 kilo liter per day (KLD) fresh water as mentioned in an undated prefeasibility report (PFR) which appeared to be prepared in 2019. A large part of this can certainly be met with the ‘treated’ water. Moreover, if the effluents are treated upto prescribed norms, it can be reused by the local industries too or it can be reused in gardening or farming.
May 13, 2023 video showing untreated effluents still being dumped in storm water pipeline laid over drain number 6.
Utilization of treated waste water can benefit the HSIIDC and all involved concerned stakeholders in multiple ways. Apart from reducing the consumption of groundwater and electricity used in extracting the scarce resource; the investment of public money in setting up these mechanisms and application of technology can only be justified when these are meeting the stated objectives. Otherwise the entire purpose of the CETP stands defeated.
No Plan for Dealing with Violation
There are additional issues which has affected the performance of the CETP in past and still remain unresolved. For example, previously the plant was facing sudden influx of effluents as most to the industries supposed to install individual on site Effluents Treatment Plant (ETP) were discharging partially or untreated effluents into drains which was impacting the functioning of the plant. There is no clarity on the status of industries with functioning ETP and whether they are functioning properly.
“There are more than 200 polluting industries including chemical, automobiles, electronic, pickling, pharma, plastic etc. and we do not know how many have installed ETPs. We will soon get a list from HSIIDC and the agency is in charge of monitoring and ensuring compliance from these industries”, stated Nilesh Kumar.
Upgradation on Assumed Water Use Figures
Normally, the upgradation process must calculate the increase in effluents load in future. Surprisingly, within 4 years the effluent load at Kundli CETP has doubled from about 5 MLD in May 2019 to 10 MLD in May 2023. However, the HSIIDC has grossly ignored the quantity of effluents reaching the CETP in next few years which means the plant would be overloaded soon and will fail to treat the incoming effluents.
Moreover, in place of sound scientific assessment, the HSIIDC has proposed the CETP upgradation assuming 4500 gallons as water demand (including sewage inflow) for per acre area which translates into 10.13 MLD after multiplying 620 acres of total industrial area with 4500 gallons as revealed in the same PFR. Though, the PFR calculates completion time for upgradation as 18 months at proposed cost of Rs. 45.86 crore from the time clearances, the completion has taken almost 2 years and there is no official figure available on cost incurred on it.
Doubts on Disposal of Toxic Sludge
Further, in place of sedimentation tanks, now the sludge is first dewatered and then collected separately from where a Gujarat based company is supposed to take and dispose it in safe manner. Presently, the plant is producing about 900 kg of sludge on daily basis which is 300 kg more than calculated in the PFR.
As per the manager, the biological sludge is reused in aeration tanks for treatment purposes and the rest cannot be used in agriculture since it has presence of heavy metals. There is no information in public domain regarding where this toxic sludge is being taken and in which manner it is being disposed-off.
Problem of Increasing Solid Waste Unaddressed
Though SPIL has applied mechanical processes and manual efforts at different stages, solid waste particularly the plastics waste persists and find ways to escape right from the first screening step through final stage of ‘treated’ water.
The plant is still not equipped to detect, trap and treat the microplastic waste which has become a serious concern for dependent aquatic eco-system and water treatment plants. During last visit also, it was observed that the solid waste in huge amount was choking the inlet well and was getting accumulated in storm water well as well.
Interestingly, in entire upgradation plan, the HSIIDC has not figured out amount and mechanism to effectively manage the increasing amount of solid and microplastic waste reaching the plant. The approach of screening and separating has failed to address this problem.
Discharging Untreated Effluents in DN 6
Similarly, on the day of visit, untreated waste water from the plant area was seen being dumped into now closed storm water drain now replacing filled up DN 6 on the other side of DN 8 embankment. When the CETP staff was taken to the outlet spot the discharges mysteriously stopped.
The manager appeared uninformed about the source of the waste water. He showed the outlet point connecting the CETP with closed pipe in DN 6 a litter further from the spot. Surprisingly, after some time the effluents were again being discharged into the storm water drain.
This is in sharp contraction of HSIIDC proposing recycled water distribution system and claiming to achieve zero liquid discharge by using treated water in gardening, green belts, horticulture, cooling tower, irrigation etc.
False Claims in PFR
Clearly, the HSIIDC has also violated conditions of permission granted by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB). Even on its application for environment clearance (EC) submitted to Ministry of Forest, Environment & Climate Change (MOEF&CC) website around May 2019, the agency has claimed that there is no stream in project area whereas DN 8 flows next to the CETP in which it has proposed to dispose surplus water which is also mentioned in the same application. However, both regulatory bodies, namely MoEF and HSPCB have failed to take a note of these contradictions.
In the PFR and EC application, HSIIDC has multiple times and confusingly mentioned treatment of sewage instead of industrial effluents. At page number 29 under heading 3.6.2, it has even mentioned disposing of surplus water in Shahabad River whereas there is no such river in the area.
At same page heading 3.7 titled “source optimization/ recycling and reused” envisaged in the project, taking a complete u turn on its recycling, reuse claims made in the same document, HSIIDC mentioned that since it’s a CETP no recycle and reuse is envisaged in the proposed project.
Questions on Online Monitoring
The HSPCB has set up a Continuous Emission/Effluent Monitoring Stations (CEMS) web portal to track the real time data regarding performances of the air and water polluting industries in the state.
Currently, the Kundli CETP is connected with the CEMS. Though the portal shares no data on effluents entering the plant however it shows that discharges at outlet are perfectly meeting all the criteria. It even showed TSS and BOD level as 0 as on May 21, 2023 at 07.30 pm.
Business As Usual
Finally, Kundli CETP is mere a glimpse of how inefficiently the CETPs and STPs are functioning in the upper Yamuna segment. This is undoubtedly a persisting business-as-usual scenario unless the concerned agencies are made accountable and the common public is made part of planning and monitoring system.
Given the deep broken governance system, the citizens are bound to suffer from inevitable saga of failing pollution control mechanism, public money going down in drain and further degradation of natural resources including the Yamuna River. Delhi citizens are also among those that will continue to suffer as the effluents will pollute their drinking water.
Bhim Singh Rawat (email@example.com)