The Central Environment Authority (CEA) has suspended the Environmental Protection License of beverage giant Coca-Cola over an incident which occurred on Monday where ‘diesel’ from an underground fuel pipe had leaked into the Kelani river basin.

“The CEA is concerned over the environmental damage, which is largely evident in this case,” said Ajith Weerasundara, Director of Waste Management at the CEA. “After extensive discussion, we have informed the company in question that their Environmental Protection License would be suspended until adequate and appropriate measures are taken by the company to rectify the damages.”

Weerasundara added that the mandate of the CEA and their objective at this point would be to ensure that such incidents do not happen in future. “In keeping with this, we are now reconsidering giving EPL to companies and factories boarding the Kelani River, we will also be reviewing activities of companies who already have the EPL and operating in close proximity to the river.”

When The Nation inquired from Coca-Cola, the company came clean with a statement acknowledging that such a leak was reported.  The company concurred that they ‘noticed a leak in an underground fuel pipe line on Monday morning’. Although the leak was plugged immediately, oil had “inadvertently seeped into a nearby water body through the drainage system,” their statement read.

Company officials conferred that they had taken immediate steps to rectify the issue. They had reportedly consulted the CEA and the National Water Supply & Drainage Board to mitigate risks.

News of the oil leak was not immediately evident, until the Water Board disrupted water supply on Election Day. Water Supply to three Colombo District Municipal Council areas including Dehiwela, Mount Lavinia and Kotte Municipal Council were affected. Kelani River Basin provides about 80% of the drinking water to Greater Colombo area.
Sources at the water board said that a company was called in to remove the oil. This process according to them would require time but they assured the general public that water would be restored within the day.

The Water Board has reportedly collected several samples including water which was contaminated to ascertain the type of oil which was leaked and the extent of the contamination.

Ironically enough Coca-Cola inked a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Water Supply and Drainage Board only a few months ago to provide clean drinking water.
Coca-Cola also spearheads a number of sustainability initiatives under the theme of ‘Water Stewardship’, through a project named ‘Every Drop Matters’ funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation. The project is a partnership with the UNDP focused on the preservation of the Kelani River Basin.