SIPCOT complex was set up in 1982 to promote chemical industries in Tamil Nadu. The plants are located next to each other surrounding at least 10 villages, with about 30,000 people residing in the immediate vicinity of the units. Over the years, these industries have dumped their toxic waste in the land, air and water. In August 2004, SACEM released a report documenting 243 odour pollution incidents over a 14-week study period. They identified 36 different chemical odours and 30 associated health symptoms. Between October 2004 and November 2006 SACEM has reported at least 12 serious incidents of gas leaks or toxic emissions. These include instances where residents were exposed to noxious emissions; commuters on the Cuddalore-Chidambaram highway were gassed.
Effluents of several SIPCOT industries are discharged into the sea through a pipeline that releases the effluent near Rajapettai village. The effluents stain the sea red to a distance of more than 200 metres from the point of discharge. The fishermen in this village complain of intense foul odour when the wind blows in from the sea.
In 2004, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to set ambient air quality standards for toxic gases, and directed the State Pollution Control Board to bring down by June 2005 the levels of air pollution below USEPA-prescribed safe levels or order the companies to shut down.
In August 2008, a high powered committee of Tamil Nadu government inspected various industries in SIPCOT. The committee ordered an immediate power cut to a manufacturing unit acknowledging the existing violations. The committee assured the community members that their grievances would be addressed without delay.