Study examined heavy metal pollution in groundwater around coal thermal power plant in Punjab
Coal thermal power plants are the leading cause of environmental pollution. The fly and bottom ash from thermal power plants contain various toxic heavy metals and contaminate the environment if not appropriately managed.
Chandigarh, July 3, 2022: Coal thermal power plants are the leading cause of environmental pollution. The fly and bottom ash from thermal power plants contain various toxic heavy metals and contaminate the environment if not appropriately managed. It affects the groundwater quality by improper disposal of coal combustion products, mainly ash which is composed of numerous heavy metals. Considering this, a team comprising experts from Panjab University and the PGIMER assessed the impact of unscientific ash disposal on groundwater quality near a thermal power plant in Ropar, Punjab, India.
Dr. Suman Mor, Chairperson, Environment Studies Department, Panjab University Chandigarh, led the research team, along with Ph.D. research scholar Nitasha Vig and Dr. Ravindra Khaiwal from the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh. The study ‘Heavy metal pollution assessment of groundwater and associated health risks around coal thermal power plant, Punjab, India; recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology being published by Springer Nature.
A total of fifty groundwater samples were collected from various depths ranging from 5 to 30 meters below ground level and varying distances from the thermal power plants during the pre and post-monsoon seasons. These samples were examined for specific heavy metals using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectroscopy. Various multivariate statistical models were computed to understed the geochemistry of groundwater, including the health risk assessment of metal pollution due to the consumption of contaminated groundwater.
The results show a relatively higher concentration of arsenic and lead in the groundwater around the thermal power plants. The increased levels of a few metals above the threshold limits during the post-monsoon season indicate the possible contamination of lower groundwater aquifers due to the leaching from ash ponds. The heavy metal pollution index of groundwater was also examined and found to be exceeding the critical levels. This indicates that groundwater consumption from the upper aquifer may pose health risks to the local inhabitant.
Dr. Suman Mor, Chairperson, Department of Environment Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh, mentioned that the power plant should adopt appropriate eco-friendly technologies to avoid unscientific disposal of fly ash. She added that the coal power industry should adopt innovations to minimize the leaching of toxins from ash ponds into groundwater.
Dr. Ravindra Khaiwal, Professor of Environmental Health, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER Chandigarh, highlighted that deepwater aquifer is currently being used for drinking and irrigation, which is safe for human and other ecological purposes. However, he stressed that we need to establish a system for routine groundwater monitoring for various toxic metals to avoid public health risks in the near future.