Factory-waste burning rampant around homesView(s):
The illegal burning of factory waste is common, with little or no action against offenders causing pollution hazards, investigations have found following the recent case of an establishment at Padiliyathuduwa Road, Wattala, where discarded sponges are collected and set on fire.
Residents in the area said that twice a day workers at the storage unit set fire to piles of discarded packets of sponges.
“They start burning around 6pm and let the fire burn till 8pm. The fires burn high, emitting black smoke that gives me headaches,” one resident said.
Another resident said her children were sick with coughs from inhaling the fumes and had symptoms of asthma due to the chemicals in the smoke.
She said clothes on her washing line were covered with ashes from the burned sponges that float over the neighbourhood.
There are some 500 similar complaints received every month by the Central Environmental Authority.
“A new policy is needed to create a proper industrial waste disposal to stop industrial material being burned out in the open,” the Acting Deputy Director of the Environmental Pollution Control Division at the Central Environmental Authority, Dr Sanjaya Ratnayake said.
He pointed out that setting fire in the open to any industrial waste was a violation of the Environmental Protection Act.
Mr. Ratnayake said although environmental licences were only provided to factories that guarantee they have a proper waste management plan there were many illegal factories operating without approval in highly residential areas.
He said the CEA was about to bring out a new garbage disposal policy for the industrial community. “We have built standards on the burning of 1,200 substances that have plastic contents,” he said.
Dr Ratanayake said most chlorinated plastic can emit cancerous gases such as dioxin while the ash particles of metals with low melting points (heavy metals) can create health problems following inhalation.
“If factories are emitting such toxic gases we can cancel their licence and take legal action to impose a fine of Rs. 10,000-100,000 or imprisonment of six months,” he said. But, he added, the CEA could not take action against storage sites because they can operate without the requirement for environmental approval and licences.
He said the Urban Development Authority and local councils should take responsibility when providing land sites to factories and stores near resident areas.
The Director of the Environmental Police division, Senior Superintendent H.H. Chulasiri, said investigations into factories illegally burning waste are delayed because police need the assistance of the Central Environmental Authorities (CEA) to take strong action against factories and stores that have environmental licences,
He said police can only take action on emission issues as a public nuisance under the Penal Code and that at least four people have to make complaints for police to be able to take concrete action.
SSP Chulasiri said no industrial company could burn waste on its grounds or off its premises without using a furnace with a chimney at least 30 feet high.
He said according to the law there could not be industrial factories in residential areas yet local government and CEA approval was continually given for such establishments that are later found to be burning waste illegally.
Environmentalist, Supun Lahiru Prakash of the Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle said it was mostly small industrial factories that burned waste onsite illegally outside; government policies only covered bigger factories.
He said gases such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emitted by fire can poison children and kill animals.