A lorry carrying copper ore accidentally drove into a stream in Udon Thani, causing copper ore to disperse into the water and sparking concern among locals about heavy metal contamination.
The kamnan of Tambon Phasuk in Udon Thani’s Kumphawapi district, Niyom Chatukane, said the accident happened late on Saturday night. The driver fell asleep behind the wheel and drove the lorry into Huai Sampad stream, spilling 28 tonnes of copper ore into the water.
Niyom said took several hours to get the lorry back on dry land, and copper ore still lay on the stream bed. He said the mining company had started to retrieve copper ore from the water on Sunday and Monday, but a lot of the ore remained in the stream.
He said his inspectionhad shown that the water quality had changed and turbidity had increase. “The water also smells like gunpowder, so I have ordered people to avoid using the water and catching any fish from the stream until further notice,” he said.
“If there is water contamination, it will have large impact, as this stream is the water head of Nonghan Kumphawapi Lake and Lam Pao River, and it is also used for agriculture by farmers in two villages.”
Sayan Mheekaew, an environmental officer, stated that half of the ore was still underwater and posed the risk of heavy metal contamination, because the ore normally contained traces of heavy metal such as lead and arsenic.
Sayan said teams of officers from the regional environmental agency and Provincial Industry Office had already collected the samples from the stream for inspection.
Pol Lt-Colonel Thanadul Seethet, Kumphawapi Police investigation officer, said the lorry driver Sayan Samlee, 45, confessed that he was transporting copper ore from Laos to Map Taphut Industrial Park in Rayong, and that he had fallen asleep while driving.
Sayan was fined Bt500 for reckless driving. There is an ongoing investigation as he failed to show a permit to transport copper ore.