PHUKET: At a provincial meeting this morning Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura admitted that bright green seaweed covering large parts of Patong Beach is the result of poor waste disposal practices by the Patong Municipality, but stressed that it is not a danger to human health. The Governor did acknowledge, however, that the piles of macroalgae are a threat to tourism. “The seaweed must be disposed of. There could be fewer tourists next year if Phuket develops a reputation as a place where tourists cannot swim,” he said. “We must find the way to get rid of it right now. People who work at Patong Beach must do their part by cleaning up the beach every morning before tourists arrive, or perhaps we need to develop a system to dispose of the seaweed during seasons when it is likely to be present.” The Governor identified a combination of nutrient loading and hot weather as the cause of the unsightly phenomenon. “Wastewater from hotels and other dwellings flows from Klong Pakbang into the water at Patong Beach. This contains nitrogen and phosphorus. Coupled with the hot weather, this creates ideal growing conditions for the seaweed. Wherever there is [untreated wastewater] you will find algae,” he said. Namphet Chatpunyanon, Deputy Director of Patong Municipality’s Environmental Health Office, admitted that there was more seaweed this year than in previous years, but played down its effect on tourism. “People are still swimming because it doesn’t [irritate] the skin. Some have remarked that it looks palatable and have even asked whether it is safe to eat,” she said.
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