A lack of facilities to treat salt and chromium are among the major problems
The Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) of Savar Tannery Industrial complex has been unable to treat waste according to projections as it has had structural faults from the very beginning, the company operating the plant admitted in a proposed action plan.
The Dhaka Tannery Industrial Estate Wastage Treatment Plant Company Ltd (DTIEWTPCL) submitted the plan to the Department of Environment (DoE) on September 20, according to a letter signed by the DTIEWTPCL Managing Director Brig Gen M Zahid Hasan.
A lack of facilities to treat salt and chromium are among the major problems, the proposed action plan reads.
The plan was prepared after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended closing down the tannery complex for failing to curb pollution.
The CEPT began operation after tanners were shifted to Savar in 2017.
What are the inconsistencies?
The waste management zone was constructed under the supervision of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) with one CETP and three Common Chrome Recovery Units (CCRU). However, neither the CETP nor the CCRUs are performing to expected standards.
According to the plan, the CETP cannot be loaded to its capacity of 25,000 cubic metres as the conveyance systems inside the machine have not been calibrated according to the flow of effluent. Moreover, the original design of the plant did not consider a sedimentation tank to remove suspended solids from water.
The total capacity of the three CCRU units is 1,050 cubic meters, whereas the industry produces around 5,000 cubic meters of chromium waste on a regular basis. The sludge from the filtration process carries chromium and is dumped at the dumping yard.
The CETP is also not equipped with reverse osmosis technology to treat salt, and it does not include an integrated grease removal system either.
Furthermore, it lacks any system to distinguish different types of waste produced in the tanning process.
In the letter, the authorities accepted that the CETP is being managed by unqualified personnel, operating without complying with the law, and exposing people to serious health hazards.
What does the action plan recommend?
The company proposed the introduction of a rationing system by limiting the amount of waste that tanneries are allowed to produce. However, the measure would result in a loss of production for tannery owners.
DoE Directorate General Md Ashraf Uddin welcomed the rationing system to tackle the immediate waste crisis.
“We have received the action plan. It is being reviewed by experts, as well as our monitoring and enforcement cell. Right now, the industrial estate is not being able to hold their commitment by any means. Restrictions would be relaxed if they comply with the rules,” he said.
The official added that the government is implementing a pilot project to monitor the industries online. If successful, the technology would be installed in every industry across the country.
The company also proposed changes and new additions to the existing infrastructure, including building sedimentation tanks in three different zones of the estate, installing high exhaust chrome tanning technology to make the CCRUs more efficient, repair and regular maintenance of the whole CETP, stringent monitoring, and greater focus on recycling.
They also mentioned the need for an Effluent Treatment Management Policy, as the system currently does not have any specific guidelines for operation. Training of the employees to operate the plant more efficiently was also emphasized.
DTIEWTPCL Managing Director Brig Gen M Zahid Hasan declined to comment on the matter.