KANCHANABURI : The Pollution Control Department (PCD) will begin examining the lead-contaminated Klity Creek this week to map out a clean-up and restoration plan.
Residents hope the clean-up will solve the long-running lead poisoning saga.
The move comes after the Supreme Administrative Court in January ordered the PCD to implement measures to clean up the creek and monitor the environment until the amount of lead in the returns to a safe level.
The case was filed in 2004 by 22 residents of Klity village in Thong Pha Phum district who were affected by lead contamination caused by mining operations upstream.
The court ruled that the PCD was too slow to clean up lead residue in the stream, causing the villagers to suffer from lead poisoning.
It also ordered the department to pay a total of 3.8 million baht compensation to the plaintiffs.
The PCD held the first public hearing on its clean-up and restoration plan in tambon Chalae of Thong Pha Phum district on Thursday.
Environmental experts from Khon Kaen University (KKU) explained the examination procedure to the residents. The PCD has commissioned the KKU team to survey the creek and draft the clean-up and restoration plan.
In August, the cabinet approved 11.85 million baht for the PCD to conduct the survey and restoration works.
Netnapid Tantemsapya, chief of the KKU research team, told villagers that the team would begin surveying the area this week, starting with collecting sediment and aquatic animals from the creek bed.
More than 4,000 samples will be collected, according to the survey plan.
Ms Netnapid said laboratory tests would indicate the level of contamination in the samples, which would help the PCD and the experts to draw up an appropriate environmental restoration plan for each part of the creek.
She agreed with the villagers' proposal to survey areas suitable for dumping lead-contaminated sediment once it was dug up from the creek.
A previous PCD study stated that the polluted sediment should be dumped at a site in Sangkhla Buri district, but locals there are afraid the dump site would cause negative impacts to the environment and communities there.
They proposed the sediment be dumped at Bo Ngam mining site in Thong Pha Phum district instead.
The PCD's latest laboratory test in September found more than 28,000 milligrammes of lead per kilogramme of water-bed sediment collected from the creek. Officials said this level was much higher than the previous test in the dry season when the lead was measured at 200-300mg/kg.