Fishermen hit by oil slick
A 600-metre oil slick in the sea off the eastern province of Rayong reached the shores of Koh Samet's fishing village Ao Phrao on Tuesday.
- Published: 30/07/2013 at 04:49 PM
- Newspaper section: news
Paiboon Lekrat, a local fisherman, said that fishermen who were at sea on Tuesday morning were forced to return to shore because the oil slick was covering such a wide area and emitting a foul smell.
At this time of the year, local trawlers usually catch around 100 kilogrammes of fish on each trip they make, but their daily catch has been depleted by the oil slick, he said.
"If the slick reaches Klaeng village, the impact will be very severe and it will take a long time to renovate the area," Mr Paiboon said. "If all the marine animals die, how will the fishermen work and eat?"
Jaturas Eiamvoranirand, chairman of the fishermen's association in Rayong, said beautiful coral reef in Ao Phrao is likely to be affected if the oil slick spreads further.
"If the tides and winds are strong and the oil spill cannot be contained it could reach islands where sea turtles breed and they're invaluable," Mr Jaturas added.
Sorasak Saensombat, director-general of the Marine Department, said the oil slick was now contained in Ao Phrao, but would take a couple of days to clean up.
Mr Sorasak said the department had already decided to take legal against PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) for causing damage to the environment, tourism and fishery sectors. This would guarantee that PTTGC, Thailand's largest petrochemical producer, would compensate local people for damage caused by the spill.
Pairin Chuchotetavorn, president and chief executive officer of PTT, said the oil slick was now contained within an area 50 metres off the shore.
After the clean-up operation is complete, the company will quickly restore the area, including the beaches. The company will also compensate those who have been affected by the incident, Mr Pairin said.
Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal said after inspecting Ao Phrao that the oil slick situation should improve tonight.
"Some of the oil spill has spread to Ban Phe but officers are now able to contain it," Mr Pongsak said.
"Samet Island is one of Thailand's important tourist destinations but fortunately Ao Phrao accounts for only 5% to 6% of the Samet area."
He said PTTGC must take full responsibility for the oil leakage incident.
PTTGC chief executive Anon Sirisaengtaksin said the company is working with relevant agencies to prevent the oil slick from damaging the environment and the local marine ecology.
He said PTTGC and relevant agencies are doing their best to quickly contain and clean up the slick, which is about one millimetre thick.
"The company will draw upon its strengths and resources to restore the environment, and will take responsibility in making the situation return to normal as fast as possible," Mr Anon said.
A PTTGC worker cleans up crude oil along the beach in Rayong on Tuesday. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
According to the company's press release, booms were deployed to contain the slick within the area of Ao Phrao and ships sprayed chemicals to dissolve crude oil on Ao Noina and Ao Kham.
PTTCG and navy personnel continued to clean up the crude oil, while more equipment was brought in to expedite the operation.
The cost of the damage is still being assessed.
Science and Technology Minister Peeraphan Palusuk said his ministry, the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Biotec) and the private sector are working together to produce micro-organisms that can help clean up the oil spill.
Mr Peeraphan said ecological bioremediation agents can effectively dissolve organic substances that cannot be dissolved in water, such as the hydrocarbon contained in petroleum.
This technology will be used to aid the clean-up operation, he added.
Department of Fisheries director-general Wimol Jantrarotai said fish from areas affected by the oil spill in the sea off Rayong are still safe to consume.
"Marine animals will swim to deeper water when their habitats become abnormal, but people should check seafood that smell of petrochemical contamination first. The smell will linger even after it had been cooked or seasoned," Mr Wimol said.
Based on samples gathered by personnel from the Fisheries Department, the quality of water in the area affected by the oil spill is still safe, and not a risk to sea creatures and plants.
Dead fish found on Ao Phrao were shallow water fish and either suffocated after oil stuck to their gills, or starved because their food sources were depleted due to the oil blocking sunlight from the sea bed, he said.
Mr Wimol said if the oil slick reaches the eastern shore of Rayong, local fishermen, especially those working in Ban Phe, will be severely affected.
If the oil does spread to the mainline coast fishermen must immediately stop fishing and cooperate with the authorities, he said, while farmers will have to bring all aquatic creatures out of the water and wait for the clean-up process to be completed.
Mr Wimol said that the Department of Fisheries will find a way to compensate anyone affected.
He said the department is also concerned over the large quantity of dispersants being used to control the oil spill, saying that chemical residues could remain after the oil is gone.
The effect of such residues cannot be determined yet, because the department does not know what all of the components of the dispersants are, he said.
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- Writer: Online Reporters
- Position: Online Reporters