Kanchanaburi: The Department of Pollution Control expects to start cleaning up the lead-contaminated Klity creek in Thong Pha Phum district in Kanchanaburi province in October with a 460-million-baht budget.
The move sets the target for lead amounts in water sediment at 1,800 miligrammes per kilogramme after the rehabilitation process.
Department deputy chief Suwan Nantasarut said a contract had been signed with Better World Green company on Aug 30 to rehabilitate the lead contamination in the creek with a 1,000 day-timeframe.
The plan is to clear lead contaminated sediment from the creek, building lead-contaminated sediment storage and clearing all lead tailings from the lead-processing plant.
He told villagers who attended the tri-party meeting held in Klity village on Wednesday that the department will continue its work to control lead pollution after the three-year rehabilitation scheme ends as it has already come up with a 20-year Klity creek rehabilitation plan for monitoring the situation and offering necessary measures and assistance to locals living in the lead-contaminated zone.
"At the very least, we can clear the amount of lead produced by the plant within 1,000 days," he told the Karen people living in Klity village.
"We bring it back to the 'normal' level of lead contamination in nature. We want to make sure all contaminated sediment will be properly managed and controlled."
The department last week officially kicked off the creek's rehabilitation scheme, which is expected to rid the creek of lead-contaminated sediment in October due to the low water levels at that time of the year.
The department's lead contamination in sediment standard is 35.8mg/kg on normal land. The highest level of lead in the creek is above 20,000mg/kg.
Chayawee Wangcharoenvong, director of Industrial Waste Water Division from the Department of Pollution Control, said it is impossible to reduce the amount of lead to the safety standard recommended by the department as the Klity village is a potential lead mining zone and contains a lot of lead by nature.
According to the rehabilitation scheme, around 45,000 tons of contaminated sediment that exist within the eight kilometres of the creek will be pulled out and put in geotextile bags.
They will be dried for one day before being transported to a storage area constructed over 50 rai of Lam Klong Lee National Park.
The geotextile bags can drain water out while leaving the sediment inside.
Meanwhile about 500 tonnes of lead tailings in the ponds will be kept at the nine-layered storage site to prevent any exposure to the environment.
The defunct lead-processing plant will be sealed with cement to prevent further leakage to the environment.
Kamthorn Sisuwanmala, a Karen villager who is also a member of the tri-party committee, said villagers are happy with the plan to clear the polluted sediment out of their community, adding locals must adapt to live in the area that is polluted with lead.
"We should accept the fact that we cannot completely rid the area of lead contamination. But we will be happy with a level of 1,000 units of lead contamination compared with over the 10,0000 units in the past," he said.
Thanakirt Thongfa, a 25-year old Karen activist, said he never knew the difference between 1,800mg/kg and the current level, saying what concerns him most is that all the plants and freshwater animals should be treated until their lead amount reaches a level safe for consumption.
The department in June collected samplings from fish, shrimp, crab and shell in the creek and found that excessive amounts of lead contamination was found in 30% of fish, and 100% of crabs and shellfish but such contamination was not found in shrimps.
The highest level of lead contamination is found in fish at 8.84mg/kg compared with the safety standard of less than 1mg/kg suggested by the Ministry of Public Health.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health said children in the Klity community have high levels of lead contamination in their blood, leading to poor brain development. Further monitoring will be done on health issues at the Klity village.
The department started to clean up the creek after the Supreme Administraive Court's verdict two years ago. The department just started the rehabilitation process, citing problems related to the bidding process for delays.