Report: Bhopal Groundwater Contaminated by UCIL Plant

The "Analysis of Chemical Contaminants in Groundwater of Communities Surrounding UCIL Plant Site in Bhopal, India" provides a qualitative and a quantitative analysis of the drinking water supply situation in 15 communities in close proximity to the Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL) pesticide plant site in Bhopal, India.

The data show that the groundwater aquifer, still used as a source of drinking water by many people, is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals. It provides information showing that these chemicals were used in the production processes of Sevin, carried out at the UCIL plant, and that there is no other possible source for the contaminants. The report uses a combination of new, previously un‐published test data from accredited laboratories in Switzerland and the United Kingdom with the collated results of previous tests carried out by Greenpeace; NEERI; and SHRISTI.

This report was undertaken by The Bhopal Medical Appeal on behalf of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, Bhopal.

The most recent test sample, from June 2009, shows levels of carbon tetrachloride had increased by a factor of approximately 2.7 when compared to a previous sample taken from the same source in May 2008. This exceeds the World Health Organization guidelines by over 2,400 times the safe level.

There are at least 15 other highly toxic chemicals present in the drinking water samples tested in this report at levels exceeding WHO safety guidelines. There are further chemicals present for which there are no safe guideline values.

A preliminary study suggests that as many as 1 in 25 children is born with a congenital defect. Studies also now indicate rapidly rising cancer rates.

This report also explains, using a detailed survey, that the clean drinking water supply system, installed by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, does not supply sufficient drinking water and that many of the residents, in the areas surveyed, must resort to drinking the toxic groundwater to meet their needs. This is despite a Supreme Court of India ruling, from 2004, ordering that a safe water system must be supplied.

The contaminants may have emanated from the factory site itself or from the ‘solar evaporation ponds just north of the factory site where UCIL are know to have dumped thousands of tons of toxic effluent or, most likely, from a combination of both, the report says.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal is a UK-based registered charity. The Sambhavna Trust Clinic, Bhopal, India is the only place that offers free treatment to sufferers of both the 1984 chemical gas disaster and the present day water poisoning.

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