Suspected Rayong ‘oil leak’ is natural plankton bloom, says PTT subsidiary

national August 13, 2017 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE SUNDAY NATION

A SUBSIDIARY of petroleum giant PTT has allayed fears of a new oil spill in Rayong, saying that what looked like leaked crude was in fact a harmless organism.



PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) said that samples of the oil-like substance found on the sea surface in Rayong Bay had been examined and identified as traces of plankton bloom. 

Pictures of the substance were shared on social media last week by a local fisherman who identified it as oil leaked from crude oil transporting pipes at Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate. This has raised concern of a major oil leak similar to one that occurred in the same area in 2013.

PTTGC operates underwater oil-transport pipes off Rayong that leaked and caused the 2013 spillage.

The company said yesterday that the Eastern Gulf Fisheries Research and Development Centre in Rayong had examined sea water samples collected last Tuesday and Wednesday. It was found that the oil-like substance on the sea surface was not oil, but the natural phenomenon of plankton bloom.

The company also cited Assoc Professor Pornsilp Pholpunthin, head of the biology department at Prince of Songkla University, as saying that Trichodesmium erythraeum, a species of blue-green algae, was found in the sea water samples.

It is suspected that the algae caused the yellow-brown traces on the sea surface. Decomposition of the substance had also created a bad smell in the area.

The company emphasised that this was a natural and normal plankton bloom that would cause no harm to humans.

Banjerd Luangphon, a fisherman in Rayong, said residents felt relieved after hearing the explanation.

“The fisherman who encountered the trace assumed that it was chemically treated oil that would then sink to the sea floor, as he had witnessed a similar thing during the last oil spill,” Banjerd said.

“But it is good to hear from PTTGC that the trace on the sea surface was not oil.” 

Nevertheless, he said that the major oil spill of 2013 was not the most recent such incident in Rayong’s waters. There had been a spill in May this year, he said.

“The local people do not want to have a problem with the company. We are looking forward to working with them to ensure that our environment will be protected,” Banjerd stressed.

“So, we would like to ask them to be very careful on their operation to prevent impacts to the environment and genuinely clean up the sea.

“Rayong’s sea has not really recovered from the oil spill in 2013, as fish numbers have significantly decreased, and some fish have shown symptoms of genetic disorders.”

 

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