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Uranium Corporation of India Limited wastewater floods fields in Kadapa, farmers fear pollution | Hyderabad News – Times of India


HYDERABAD: The tail pond storing slurry and wastewater generated from the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) mine in Kadapa district has been overflowing into the agricultural fields damaging crops and raising fears of contamination.
With heavy pre-monsoon showers inundating large areas, local farmers and environmentalists are protesting against UCIL for crop loss and alleged damage to the soil and water in the area.
UCIL plant at Thummalapalle is India’s biggest uranium single processing plant.
“On Saturday night it rained heavily and the gates of the dam located after the tail pond were damaged and water overflowed into our fields. I have six acres of land, and in three acres, I am raising plantain and black-eyed beans in the rest. The UCIL slurry mixed water flooded my entire crop. The standing crop is lost,” a local farmer Akula Lokesh said.
Two senior officials of UCIL said they have been facing heavy rains for the past few days, but added there has been no contamination.
“Due to muddy water, locals are claiming the water from tailing pond entered their field. We took samples and analysed them. The PH value inside our plant jurisdiction is more than 12 but outside the area is 7.8. Uranium levels in the water outside our plant are 0.24 parts per million. Around less than 1 ppm is permissible. It is a normal level completely diluted. We have collected further samples from the fields and analyzing them,” UCIL general manager (engineering services) M S Rao told TOI.
From May 8, UCIL was shut due to Covid-19 outbreak and from May 22 to June 3, they ran the plant partially due to poor oxygen supply issues as oxygen in the country is being diverted to hospitals.
Normally tailings that contain Uranium host rock residue are discharged into the tailing pond, another official explained.
“The pond is located in the valley with hills on three sides and a dam on the other side. Whatever settled goes into the bottom of the tailing pond. Clearwater goes into the spillway and then decantation pond located in between tailing pond and dam. The clear water in decantation ponds are recycled back into the plant,” the official said.
“As it rained, tailing and decantation ponds also got filled up. Recycling of entire water couldn’t be done, so it overflowed into the nearby fields. We took samples and found low levels of uranium, and they are in permissible limits,” he said, promising to further assess the issue.
“We will assess the damage if any to crops and do the needful as per the rules,” the official added.
Retired scientist of Icrisat, K Babu Rao, pointed out that earlier a ministry of environment-appointed committee found nine violations and they have not been addressed them yet.
“The tailing pond has no proper lining due to which seepage is happening. They are claiming clay lining which is also a questionable one. For plant expansion, PCB is yet to conduct a public hearing,” Rao said, adding, “The tailing pond is in 250 acres and overflowing of uranium residue water in surroundings will cause environmental damage.”
Local activist Kakumanu Jayashree said that locals were suffering health issues for long due to uranium-polluted groundwater use.

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