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Ammonia gas leak in a manufacturing unit of Chennai leaves 25 hospitalized

Photo: Internet

The gas leak on Tuesday night from Coromandel International Ltd of Ennore, Chennai has caused uneasiness, leaving approximately 25 people hospitalized in a nearby hospital, as per PTI.

The incident has even left dead fish along the shore of a nearby beach. The leak was reported to have happened during the pre-cooling process which is done to pump ammonia in liquid form.

The seawater sample from the location of the leakage collected at 3:49 A.M revealed an ammonia concentration of 49 mg/L, which was way more than the standard 5 mg/L. The team detected ammonia in ambient air in several nearby locations too.

“The human nose can detect ammonia at 5 parts per million (ppm) or more. Beyond 52 ppm, the human nose cannot sense it. If people had been able to sense it with symptoms such as burning eyes and throat, levels would have been anywhere between 5 and 50 ppm. The US occupational health standards prescribed a safe level of 35 ppm which is not to be exceeded during any 15 minutes in the workplace. There is no reason to be complacent,” writer and researcher Nityanand Jayaraman told the Hindustan Times.

On the other hand, “There are no more gas (ammonia) leaks at Ennore. People are back home. Medical and police teams are present at the spot,” said Avadi Joint Commissioner of Police, P Vijayakumar, urging people to return home. 

The leakage, found in the subsea pipe, was sensed by a fellow staff member named Periyakuppam, who immediately alarmed the people. The leak at the plant took place around 11:45 PM on Tuesday, spreading an unpleasant odour across the neighbourhood, which led the people of the village to leave the premises in order to escape the toxic gas. Subsequently, those impacted by it complained of difficulty in breathing, nausea, and faintness and irritation in the eyes.

According to PTI, the officials from the unit ‘took steps’ to address the technical issue. Coromandel International Limited’s President and Head of Manufacturing (Fertiliser) and Supply Chain Amir Alvi, in a statement on Wednesday, said “As part of routine operation, we noticed abnormality on 26/12/2023 at 23.30 hrs in the ammonia unloading subsea pipeline near shoreside, outside the plant premises. Our Standard Operating Procedure activated immediately, and we isolated the ammonia system facility and brought the situation to normalcy in the shortest time. During the process, few members in the local community expressed discomfort and were given medical attention immediately. All are safe and normalcy is restored.”

The news was given to the Tamil Nadu Environment and Forest Department over a call at 12.45 A.M. “Immediately the Joint Chief Environmental Engineer JCEE (M) Chennai along with District Environmental Engineer DEE (Ambattur) and Assistant Executive Engineer AEE (Manali) reached the site by 2.15 am and inspected the unit and the pipeline locations. The Joint Director, Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) who is the authority for the safety of the industrial operation was also present at the site,” said Additional Chief Secretary Environment Climate Change and Forests Supriya Sahu. “

Ammonia gas leak detected in a subsea pipe in Ennore. This was noticed and stopped. The production head says the leak caused a strong smell” the department told ANI.

According to Joint Commissioner Vijayakumar, the situation has been successfully brought “under control”. A police team is currently present on the factory premises, actively assisting in managing and resolving the issue, as stated by the police official.

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