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Andhra Pradesh State Government investigation reveals LG’s reckless manufacturing, disregard for safety and extensive pollution
After LG’s toxic release of styrene vapor into a nearby residential area killing and injuring people, the Andhra Pradesh State Government convened a High Power Committee (HPC) to investigate the tragedy.
Two months later, the HPC delivered a 4,000-page report sharply critical of LG’s management. The government investigation demonstrated LG’s disregard for safety, raised the possibility of a double standard in LG operations in South Korea and India and revealed significant environmental pollution caused by LG’s massive styrene release.
Key findings of the report include the following:
- The LG tragedy released approximately 800 tons of styrene – one of the largest releases in the world – into a residential community located 200 meters from the factory.
- LG’s styrene release resulted in significant water and soil pollution. The least contaminated water sample from a dug well in the community contained styrene levels 87 times higher than the WHO guideline. The least contaminated sample from the Narava Kota Reservoir violated Canadian standards for agricultural land by more than 1000-fold.
- The tank that released styrene (M6) was more than 50 years old and designed to store molasses, not a toxic chemical. The HPC noted that “The M6 tank is inferior in design in all respects for storing styrene.”
- LG admitted to modifying the M6 tank in December 2019 without obtaining government approval, increasing the likelihood of a release and in the view of the Committee, “sowed the seeds of disaster.”
- LG manually operated the critical styrene tank cooling system only from 8 am – 5 pm. The HPC criticized this practice calling it “unscientific, human error oriented and unacceptable in terms of process safety.”
- The HPC condemned LG’s disregard for safety, stating that, “LG Polymers does not have any process safety management system.” The Committee concluded that the “handling of emergency response by LG Polymers was inept.”
- The company not only failed to alert the community of the deadly release but also did not perform any rescue and evacuation operations. “Any reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have blown the Emergency Siren to save the life of residents in the neighborhood.”
- The HPC noted that LG appeared to be on a cost-cutting push, “and not recruiting qualified and technical people.” The HPC put it bluntly: “There was a dearth of knowledge talent among the top, middle and shift management in LG Polymers.”
- The HPC noted that LG “is absolutely liable to compensate for harms caused by the accident. As per the Polluter Pays Principle and Precautionary Principle, the absolute liability for harm extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also for the cost of restoring the environmental degradation caused by the accident.”
- Key actions that should result from the HPC investigation include: 1) Liability for the tragedy should include the parent company, LG Chemical; 2) Comprehensive health surveillance and compensation should be applied; and 3) Rigorous environmental monitoring and cleanup should be performed.