The explosion was triggered by a failed trial run of chemical production at the factory. (File)
THE MAHARASHTRA Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Monday issued a closure notice to A N K Pharma Private Limited, located at Boisar’s Tarapur Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), after discovering that machinery had been installed illegally at the factory and that the company had flouted environmental pollution norms by storing hazardous chemicals in its premises.
Last Saturday, eight persons were killed and seven injured following an explosion triggered by a failed trial run of chemical production at the factory.
On October 10, 2019, when an MPCB field officer had visited the factory, its owner Natwarlal Patel had assured that a newly constructed building near the main gate would house the firm’s administrative office. He had also claimed that no machinery would be installed in close proximity to the entrance gate of this new building. Patel, however, according to MPCB, installed reactors, thermopacks and centrifuges at the new building without obtaining requisite permissions from the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) of the state labour department.
On January 2, days before a powerful blast killed eight persons, MPCB had granted Consent to Operate until 2024 to Patel, who also sustained injuries in the explosion. This was after Patel installed an effluent treatment plant in order to achieve zero liquid discharge.
In Monday’s closure notice, the MPCB stated that A N K Pharma had violated the Consent to Operate by manufacturing chemical products for its sister concern, M/s Alexo Chemicals, which is also located at Tarapur MIDC.
During its inspection of the facility following the mishap, the MPCB also found that Patel had imported the chemicals Ortho Chlorotoluene, 2,3-xylidine and Trans 4 Aminocyclohexanol from China and illegally stored other hazardous chemicals like Dimethylformamide.
Ortho Chlorotoluene is a solvent used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, synthetic rubber and insecticides. 2,3-xylidine is used to manufacture pain-killing drugs and herbicides. Trans 4 Aminocyclohexanol is used to treat respiratory diseases and Dimethylformamide is used as a solvent in chemical reactions.
In his report, MPCB Regional Officer in Thane, D B Patil, concluded that Patel had “knowingly and willfully” violated consent conditions under the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
The MPCB gave Patel 72 hours from Monday to close down manufacturing activities and take “precautionary measures for safe closure”. It also directed the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited and the water supply department of the Tarapur MIDC to disconnect electricity and water supply to A N K Pharma within 72 hours.
Vishwas Valvi, Sub-Divisional police officer of Boisar, said the police are yet to receive investigation reports from the state government agencies. “Patel is recuperating in the hospital after undergoing surgery to remove glass pieces that had pierced his stomach... he is not in a condition to speak to investigators,” he added.