The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wash theory shocks experts

Calcutta, Aug. 11: Experts are questioning the way bottling plants of soft drink companies handle environmental issues in the wake of the controversy over toxic metals being found in the sludge that comes out as waste.

Environmentalists are “absolutely aghast” at a suggestion made by a Coca-Cola bottling plant owner in Bengal that the source of lead and cadmium in the sludge might be the chemicals used to wash the bottles after they come back from the market.

“Ninety-five per cent of the waste water is this bottle-wash water, so that could be a possible source. After all, chemicals are added in this process of washing,” said .R. Goenka, managing director of Diamond Beverages, a Coke franchisee.

“Chemicals normally used to wash bottles are unlikely to be the source of toxic metals in sludge,” explained Siddhartha Dutta, an environment expert in Jadavpur University.

“Even if we presume that this has happened, it is criminal. How could they have remotely used such chemicals for bottle-wash' Aren’t they supposed to maintain the stringent guidelines being followed by their parent company'” Dutta asked.

“If they have toxic chemicals in wash water, they might have the same in bottles as well as in the cold drinks,” said Sudip Bandopadyay of Calcutta University’s environment department.

Environmentalists are also amazed by the magnitude of difference between the state pollution control board’s own result and the result provided by one of its own accredited laboratories after testing the sludge from a bottling plant.

The board’s test showed in the case of Diamond Beverages the lead and cadmium content in the sludge to be nearly eight times that of what the private lab has found.

“It is amazing. It shows the way these laboratories are being run. Many of these laboratories do not use properly qualified personnel, though their official record might have shown otherwise,” Bandopadyay said.

Board sources admit that “many of these laboratories are dictated to by the industries which provide the samples. If a laboratory gives results different from what the industry has asked for, it won’t get the subsequent contract from the same industry”.

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