Authorities on Thursday announced Koh Samet's Ao Phrao beach will reopen to tourists on Nov 1 following the oil spill on July 27 in which about 50,000 litres of crude oil leaked from a PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) pipeline.
Photos by Jumphol Nikomruk
Representatives from several agencies in charge of the cleaning and rehabilitating operation, including PTTGC executives, announced the plan during a press conference before taking members of the press to Ao Phrao to examine the current environmental conditions of the beach.
Reporters were given devices to examine volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the sea water. They said they found VOC levels met safety standards.
Rangsan Pinthong, director of the Pollution Control Department's (PCD) water quality management office, confirmed laboratory results found levels of crude oil and metal elements in sea water off all 12 beaches of the island, including Ao Phrao, had met safety standards for recreational activities since late September. The water quality had also returned to normal.
He said the mercury levels from the sea water samples were below the accepted standard of 0.1 microgrammes per litre (ug/l), while the level of the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) is below 1 ug/l.
The condition of coral reefs has greatly improved and small marine animals were found to have returned to coastal areas, which indicated marine ecological systems have recovered, Mr Rangsan added.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had come up with a long-term rehabilitation plan for areas affected by the PTTGC oil spill and has also instructed the company to implement the plan.
Mr Rangsan said the rehabilitation plan comprised seven tasks, including monitoring seawater quality and the impact on marine species, and the rehabilitation of coral reefs, the beach, seagrass, and mangrove forests.
The ministry would keep a close watch on how well the company implemented the plan, he said.
The ministry said the petrochemical firm had agreed to pay compensation to cover environmental damage to the beach's marine life after the oil spill.
Chote Trachu, permanent secretary to the ministry, had said on Monday that PTTGC had not ignored the problems it caused and agreed to pay for cleaning and rehabilitating the damaged area. Mr Chote said there was no need to press legal charges against the company.