Rayong beach 'still unsafe' after oil spill

Rayong beach 'still unsafe' after oil spill

Local fishermen seek govt compensation

Pollution Control Department officials work to clean up the oil spill that washed ashore along a 2-kilometre stretch of Rayong’s Mae Ramphueng beach on Jan 29. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Pollution Control Department officials work to clean up the oil spill that washed ashore along a 2-kilometre stretch of Rayong’s Mae Ramphueng beach on Jan 29. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Despite efforts to clean up the oil spill from Star Petroleum Refining Public Co's (SPRC) pipeline, the concentration of heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons on Mae Ramphueng beach still exceed levels considered safe, the Rayong Pollution Control Centre said on Tuesday.

The extent of the pollution was revealed after the centre released the result of its tests following the oil spill. These measured the concentration of hydrocarbons and dissolved oxygen in the water on three locations of the popular beach.

The tests found the concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons near Paya restaurant, Bayview Resort and Ban Sabai Sabai from Jan 27-Feb 12 had jumped to 1.8-4.3 milligrammes per litre while the safe level is at 0.5 mg/l.

Meanwhile, Rayong Provincial Public Health Office has collected urine samples from officials who were tasked with salvaging the oil to check for volatile organic compounds.

Among 534 officials, three showed levels deemed unsafe, while 18 others were still awaiting their results.

To work on removing 12,000 litres of crude oil from the broken pipeline, an engineering team from Japan is already in Rayong and ready to commence the operation at the command of the Marine Department.

Sopon Thongdee, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said no oil slicks have been spotted on the following four routes since a patrol boat was deployed from the Marine and Coastal Resources Office 1: Khao Laem Ya to Koh Samet; Mae Ramphueng to Koh Saket; Mae Ramphueng to Khao Laem Ya to Ao Phe to Pak Khlong Klaeng; and Mae Ramphueng to Koh Saket.

Furthermore, the Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre, Eastern Gulf of Thailand, also have not found any oil film on the seawater from Mae Ramphueng beach to the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand.

But clusters of tar balls were sighted washed ashore from Taphong pier to the bottom of the Gulf, Mr Sopon said.

Meanwhile, the Mae Ramphueng Beach Food Service group and 48 local fisheries groups gathered names to petition SPRC to demand compensation for the recent oil leaks.

Prasert Sirimaha, group chairperson, said the incident prompted the suspension of beach activities which has affected both the tourism and fishery sectors.

The 48 local fisheries groups urged the SPRC to pay monthly compensation of 70,000 baht for a period of five months, while other groups proposed a yearly payment.

Mr Prasert said the group will wait for 15 days for its demands to be met before considering whether to take more aggressive action.

Marine Department deputy director-general Phuriphat Thirakunphisut said the department filed a complaint with Mae Ramphueng police against the company on Jan 26 for contaminating the seawater under the Navigation in Thai Waters Act.

He said the incident has harmed the economy and had a devastating effect on natural resources and the maritime environment.

The department's Maritime Regulatory Division and Legal Affairs Bureau will determine whether to impose punitive measures and submit the matter to the transport minister.

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