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Garbage-dump fire prompts nationwide check of controls

Local bodies lack capacity to tackle pollution problems

ENVIRONMENTAL experts are testing samples from around the burned-out garbage dump at Samut Prakan's tambon Praksa for toxic substances in the soil, air and underground water, in order to find out where they came from.

At the same time, the recent massive fire at the garbage dump has prompted pollution-control agencies to revise their designation of pollution-control zones in 23 provinces nationwide.

The move comes after the Pollution Control Department (PCD) learnt that Samut Prakan provincial authorities had failed to properly eliminate large amounts of garbage and hazardous waste from its industrial sectors.

This was despite the province being designated a pollution-control zone since 1994.

The 23 provinces designated as having pollution-control zones by the Environmental Quality Protection and Promotion Act must plan to control and reduce the pollution in their areas.The pollution situation in some provinces such as Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan and Phetchaburi's Ban Laem district requires their designation as pollution-control zones be revised.

"We found that local authorities that have been tasked with controlling pollution do not have enough capacity to deal with the pollution problems in their areas," PCD director-general Wichian Jungrungreon said.

In a related development, following concerns of environmental experts over the contamination of dioxin-furans and other toxic substances in the soil and underground water near the fire site in Praksa, the Department of Environment Quality Promotion has sent its staff to collect samples of air, soil and underground water near the dumping site to test for contamination.

The results should be released in the next 10 days.

Dioxins and furans are among the most toxic chemicals known to science and can cause cancer in humans.

They can taint the environment for more than 100 years and contaminate the food cycle.

The police have asked the PCD to work with the Industry Work Department to find out more about the industrial waste in the dumpsite after the fire had been stopped.

"There was an observation that this garbage [could have] come from the industrial sector," Wichian said.

He added that the level of sulfur-dioxide at the dumping site was still high and exceeded standard levels.

This sulfur-dioxide at the dumping site was measured at 2 parts per million, while the designated standard is 0.2 ppm.

"People involved in the operation to deal with this dumping site must protect themselves from further contamination by the hazardous substances," Wichien warned.

In Phuket, provincial governor Maitree Intusut has ordered his officials to keep a watch out for any accidents likely to take place at the garbage dumping sites in the province.


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