Leading Indian fertilizer company faces fines over ammonia leak

Government investigators have confirmed that an ammonia gas leak in India’s Tamil Nadu state on December 26 emanated from an undersea pipeline linked to Coromandel International Limited’s fertilizer factory in north Chennai, local media reported on Monday.

According to the Times of India, the technical committee behind the investigation has instructed the local pollution control board to take legal action against Coromandel, and said that the company should face a fine of 59.2 million rupees ($712,790).

The investigators have also asked Coromandel to replace the fertilizer plant’s old offshore pipeline with a new pipeline featuring state-of-the-art monitoring, automatic control, and accident-prevention systems, and to install warning sirens in residential areas.

Additionally, the committee has called on the relevant government agencies to periodically carry out risk assessments and have said that Coromandel must make its safety audit publicly available.

The incident – which is believed to have been caused by the displacement of granite boulders during a cyclone – caused local residents to suffer nausea, shortness of breath, and burning eyes. 52 people had to be treated in hospital for ammonia poisoning.

It also prompted affected communities to launch a protest campaign calling for the fertilizer factory to be shut down permanently.

Coromandel International Limited, for its part, has previously stressed that it responded quickly to the leak, and has said that it is committed to safeguarding both public health and the environment.

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