Heavy metals in water - serious pollution concentration found near industrial areas in Thailand

5.6.2017 - BANGKOK
Industrial areas in Thailand are source of hazardous limits of toxic pollution
Photo: Jindrich Petrlik, Arnika

Environmentalists revealed that the industrial pollution has become more intensified in these two years. Sediments of water sources near the industrial areas contain high concentration of heavy metals. State agencies are urged to step in with the surveillance measures, and some areas must have urgent plans for water sources rehabilitation and protection.

Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (EARTH) along with scientists from the ARNIKA Association, Czech Republic, has held the press conference titled "An Overview of Industrial Pollution 2015-2016 and the Findings of Heavy Metals in Sediments of 8 Provinces" at the Crystal Room 2 to 4, Century Park Hotel, Ratchaprarop Road, Bangkok, which revealed the findings of the overall situation of industrial pollution in Thailand during 2015-2016 and the studies on heavy metals contamination on surfaced water sources near the industrial development zone of 8 provinces in Thailand which are Samut Prakarn, Samut Sakhon, Rayong, Chachoengsao, Prachinburi, Saraburi, Khon Kaen and Loei.

Penchom Tang, Director of EARTH, said that the overall situation of the industrial pollution in Thailand remains severe, even though the government has announced the policy to maintain the security of natural resources and to balance the conservation and sustainable use, as well as to tackle this issue urgently, both in terms of overall country and area base such as Map Ta Phut area in Rayong Provicne.

The government has previously announced the waste disposal as a national agenda which is urgent to cope with. During 2015-2016, the industrial pollution situation in Map Ta Phut remained serious and likely to be more intensify in the future, such as the problem of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which some substances are carcinogens and highly contaminated in the air, or accumulated in seawater and frequently causing the unnatural death to the large numbers of sea animals. Meanwhile, the promotion of waste-to-energy facilities which will construct almost 50 power plants nationwide by exempting the projects from the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and City Planning Law has subsequently led to the conflicts. Over the past two years, around 30 communities nationwide have risen up against the construction of waste-to-energy power plants, and some affected local people have been intimidated by the project supporters, or even the state officials.

Director of EARTH also pointed out that there must be environmental management standards to solve the problems as currently the sufferings from air pollution, water pollution and industrial hazardous waste are problems in almost every industrial area such as industrial estate/ industrial zone, and the small and medium size factories are still lack of good environmental management systems. In addition, the problems in some areas are caused by the state agencies, such as the Department of Industrial Works (DIW) and the Provincial Industry Offices, as the officers are unable to monitor and inspect thoroughly, or lack of seriousness to regulate the factories to comply with environmental protection measures under the factory law as well as the environmental impact mitigation measures in the EIA report under the environmental law.

Openly accessed data needed
Moreover, most people are still lack of knowledge to counter with the factories, and cannot get access to the information on the pollutants released into environment since Thailand does not have the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) legislation to regulate the factories to report and disclose of pollutant information to public. At the same time, the promotion of the green industry seems to be an image building policy and seen as an attempt to avoid conflict with communities rather than paying accountability to environmental health prevention and toxic chemical reduction for public safety.  Overall, Thailand is still lack of good governance and transparency in industrial pollution management, including enforcement measures for those who have no environment responsibilities, or offense to the laws.

Therefore, if the government wants to achieve the sustainable development goals, there is a need to accelerate the comprehensive reform of environmental legislations, such as the EIA/EHIA system and mechanism, to formulate and implement the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR Law), polluters pay principal, environmental inspection and post EIA monitoring/auditing system of industrial plants, as to promote transparency and efficiency. It is important for the state to strike a balance between economic and industrial investment, with respect to the protection of natural resources, environment and human health, said Director of EARTH.

Marek Šír, an expert from the University of Chemistry and Technology, Czech Republic, has revealed the results of heavy metal contamination in surface water's sediments near industrial sites in 8 provinces in Thailand. The study, taken in February 2016,  is a collaboration between EARTH, ARNIKA Association and the University of Chemistry and Technology, Czech Republic, and supported by the European Union (EU).

The findings of each study in 8 provinces found several heavy metal substances exceeded the “Sediment Quality Criteria for the Protection of Benthic Organisms", as compared to the Pollution Control Department 's Draft Notification on the Sediment Quality Criteria for Freshwater Sources. There are 4 provinces that found high concentration of several heavy metals that the state should pose the urgent measures to handle the situation which are; (1) Wang Saphung district, Loei province, around the gold mining area has found the high concentration in sediments of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd) and copper (Cu); (2) Map Ta Phut area, Rayong province where situated with many petrochemical and related industry facilities, coal-fired power plants, oil and gas refineries, has found high levels of mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn), arsenic (As) and copper (Cu). Cadmium (Cd) is also found in coastal sediments near the IRPC Industrial Zone in Rayong province; (3) Muang district, Samut Sakhon province, which has a large number of foundries and mills, and large and medium sized of recycle factories, has found high levels of arsenic (As), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu) and nickel (Ni); (4) Tha Tum subdistrict, Prachinburi province, which has many coal-fired power plants, and various types of industries has found high levels of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr) and copper (Cu). Heavy metals are highly correlated with industrial pollutions in the area.


This article was prepared and published as a part of the project “Increasing Transparency in Industrial Pollution Management through Citizen Science” funded by the European Union (EU) and co-funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic within the Framework of the Transition Promotion Programme – a financial assistance programme supporting democracy and human rights using the Czech Republic’s experience with social transition and democratization.

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