Waste dump explosion: Leachate may have leaked into lagoon - environmentalists



By Ifham Nizam

A large concrete leachate tank at the Aruwakkalu sanitary landfill was destroyed by an explosion at the site, on Monday night. The explosion had been heard and felt by those living within a five-kilometre radius, environmental groups said. They believe that a methane build-up was responsible for the explosion.


 The landfill has a protective flare lighting, which activated for the first time to burn the gas on Monday afternoon.


Yesterday, a team of specialists together with the Megapolis Ministry officials and Police launched an investigation into Monday’s explosion at the Landfill.


The Megapolis Ministry has, in a media statement, said that the explosion occurred at a regulation tank, where the leachate from the garbage collected. It says that suspicion has arisen as to whether the explosion was an act of sabotage. However, environmentalists ruled it out.


Garbage from Colombo is dumped at two slots in the landfill with a capacity of 600 metric tonnes each - a move which has drawn stiff opposition from residents citing health concerns.


Transporting waste from Colombo to Puttalm costs more than Rs. 4 million a day.


The Megapolis Ministry also said that Leachate was sucked into the Regulation Tank through a pump and the collection of gases inside the tank such as methane was a natural reaction.


It rejected claims that the explosion could have occurred due to methane, for the Regulation Tank was 700mm thick and is covered with a 400mm thick concrete layer.


The statement says that leachate had not leaked after the explosion and that steps are being taken to direct leachate into a different regulation tank.


The construction company involved in the project was repairing the tank with its own funds, the Ministry said. There were no casualties.


Environmentalists said that the explosion raised serious concerns about the safety of people and natural resources including water bodies - the ecologically rich and delicate Puttalam Lagoon, the largest in the country and the Wanathavillu aquifer, part of the largest network of aquifers (underground freshwater reservoirs) in the country. 


 Leachate from the damaged tank would have by now entered the lagoon, environmentalists said.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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