The Tamil Nadu government will take the next courseof action on the fertiliser unit of Coromandel International in North Chennai only after all the recommendations prescribed by the technical committee have been fulfilled and duly certified by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), said Siva. V Meyyanathan, Minister for Environment and Climate Change.

The plant was shut down on December 26, 2023 following leakage of ammonia gas that left nearly 50 hospitalisted, and have been fully recovered.

The minister was responding to some of the MLAs in the Assembly urging the State government to permanently shut down the factory following the ammonia gas leak incident. The Assembly on Wednesday took up the issue calling attention to matters of urgent public importance on leakage of ammonia gas in Coromandel International factory.

The minister said after the incident, local people complained of eye irritation, skin allergy and breathlessness. Over 50 people were hospitalised and everybody recovered and returned home. Within 20 minutes, ammonia leakage was arrested. Following the incident, the TNPCB had asked the factory to stop production temporarily, he said.

On February 4, the Tamil Nadu government directed the TNPCB to implement the recommendations of the technical committee report on the ammonia gas leak in Ennore. The State government had constituted a technical committee to ascertain the cause of the ammonia leak in Ennore on December 26.

An official release then said the ammonia leak had occurred from the under-sea pipeline of Coromandel International Ltd., close to the shore. It was also observed by the committee that the significant relocation of heavy granite boulders around the pipeline due to Cyclone Michaung could have caused damage to the pipeline, which resulted in the ammonia gas leakage.

Committee’s recommendations

The committee, in its recommendations, said the unit shall replace the existing offshore pipeline with a new pipeline with latest automatic control, and an accident prevention system. The pipeline is not properly protected at the location where it emerges out of sea water and crosses the road to reach the plant.

Before every pre-cooling and ammonia transfer operation, the unit shall carry out a mandatory pressure test using nitrogen gas to check the integrity of the pipeline. Only after ensuring that the pipeline is intact and safe should any ammonia be transferred to the pipeline, the committee said.

TNPCB has submitted the above report of the Technical Committee to the government. The government has accepted the recommendations of the committee and directed TNPCB to implement all recommendations of the technical committee immediately and report compliance, the release said.