MPCB Sends Notice to Biomedical Waste Disposal Firm Over Generation of Potentially Harmful Smoke

MPCB Sends Notice to Biomedical Waste Disposal Firm Over Generation of Potentially Harmful Smoke

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has issued a notice to SMS Envoclean Private Limited, a private contractor, to reduce the amount of black smoke generated from its biomedical waste treating facility. 

SMS Envoclean is a private contractor hired by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to treat biomedical waste pertaining to the coronavirus. This consists of used PPE kits and other waste from hospitals. The standard protocol for such waste is to be run through an incinerator the same day as it arrives.

The MPCB has asked the private contractor to improve the scrubber technology at its incineration facility so as to reduce the amount of black smoke emitted from its chimneys. However, the state pollution control board maintained that this biomedical waste treating facility at Govandi (East) was not violating any emission norms.

Regional Officer (Mumbai) of the MPCB, Anant Harshvardhan said - “Emission levels of SMS Envoclean are being monitored by MPCB and CPCB daily through an online mechanism. The unit has not violated the 80 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m³) 24-hour safe limit for NO2, the major pollutant after the burning of waste. However, based on complaints, we have directed the unit to increase its air pollution control scrubbers to further curb the emission of black smoke.”

However, an expert on air quality and its effects said that the MPCB isn’t looking for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like benzene, styrene, toluene, xylene, and so on. These materials are also known to have impacts on human health, making this a potential cause for concern amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

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As for the notice sent by the MPCB to SMS Envoclean, it comes as 100 residents from Deonar, Mankhurd, Govandi and surrounding regions signed and sent a legal notice to the MPCB about the generation of harmful smoke from the biomedical treatment facility. Advocate Saif Alam who represented the residents said that multiple complaints were sent between July and September, though there was no response from the state pollution board.

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“There has to be stringent action against this unit. Ignoring such complainants or delaying action will only create more damage to the residents, who are suffering from tuberculosis (TB) and asthma,” Alam said while adding that he is a patient of allergic bronchitis.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time that SMS Envoclean has come under scrutiny from the authorities. Back in 2018, the MPCB sent a closure notice to the contractor after finding that there were violations of safety standards under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. 

The closure was subsequently stayed by the Bombay High Court, while permissions were granted again after the company set up a revamped air pollution system that was compliant with the pollution board’s norms.

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