Saraburi dust at dangerous level
The Pollution Control Department (PCD) plans to strictly control activities at Saraburi's quarry and rock crushing sites, after locals were found to be at greater risk of lung disease because the level of small dust particles exceeded health standards and was the highest in the country.PCD chief Wichien Jungrungruang said his office detected 140 micrograms per cubic metre of dust less than 2.5 parts per million (ppm) in size in Chalermphrakiat district’s Tambon Na Phra Lan. This had affected air quality and local people's health.
This was nearly three times the health level - not over 50 microgram per cubic metre. A high small particle count was also detected in Beijing, he noted.
Saraburi has over 200 quarry and rock crushing factories. This explains why the department also found small particles of 10 parts per million (ppm) at a rate of up to 173 to 203 micrograms per cubic metre over the past few weeks, he said.
The department did a random test for from January 1 to 27 and found only four days of good air quality in that time, he added.
Last Friday, the small particle dust level was 129 micrograms per cubic metre, over the standard level of 120 micrograms and affecting local people’s health.
"We found a high level of small particles was mostly detected in the night time," he said adding it was possible that quarries and rock crushers were blowing up rock illegally at night.
The department allowed quarry and rock crushing factories to blow up rocks only from 3pm to 4pm. But the high level of small particles in the air was detected at 7am in the morning at 7am and 5pm till midnight.
Saraburi has been designated as a pollution control zone since 2004 but the local officials have not enforced environmental control measures over this time.
Wichien said he would ask the Saraburi governor to conduct a study for the air pollution source and limit the period for blowing up rock and rock crushing. They would also ask firms to strictly cover trucks carrying rock.
"We will send an urgent letter to Industry Ministry to take act against the law-violating quarry and rock crushing manufacturers," he said. "If we do nothing to reduce pollution impacts, this town will be covered with dust with no fresh air for the locals," he added.
Saraburi deputy governor Chalothon Hakote said officials were drawing up a four-year plan to reduce the impact of quarries and rock crushing. Bt21 million would be needed to buy equipment to reduce impacts and conduct research to find solutions. "We will ask the local manufacturers to improve their activities to reduce the dust within a month. If there is no improvement, we will immediately order their factories to close."
Na Phra Lan Local Administrative Organisation chief Thanipat Withuchuleechote insisted no quarry and rock crushing activities had been done at night and the high level of small particles was not caused by such activities. "We're ready to close if state agencies can prove the bad air came from quarry and rock crushing activities, or else the government must pay us compensation for manufacturing suspension," said Thanipat, who is also Na Phra Lan Rock crushing manufacturers president.
Na Phra Lan Municipality deputy chief Thanet Kengkiatchai said his agency found only 10 people suffered from respiratory diseases.