Officials tackle Patong Beach’s “big brown’ water problem

PHUKET: An order was made to review operations at the Patong Wastewater Treatment Plant following tests of the seawater at Patong Beach this morning.

The director of the Phuket-based Regional Environmental Office 15, Pornsri Suthanaruk, announced the news as Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut joined environment officials conducting the water-quality tests.

Dr Pornsri explained that private and commercial premises in Patong will also come under scrutiny.

“We will coordinate with Patong Municipality and inspect hotels, other businesses and individual residents’ homes to make sure they comply with legal requirements in the release of wastewater,” she said.

Environment officers this morning checked water temperature, acidity (pH level), clarity, salinity and levels of dissolved oxygen (DO).

However, Dr Pornsri explained that the tests were not comprehensive enough to determine whether or not the water was safe to swim in.

“The initial test results today cannot confirm that the water quality is at a level that it is safe for people to be in the ocean. We have to send our samples to the Phuket Marine Biological Center [PMBC] for more tests,” she explained.

The PMBC will test for plankton, phosphorous, chloroform bacteria and hydrocarbons.

The tests for plankton, phosphorous and chloroform bacteria will help the Environment Office monitor elevated levels of untreated wastewater being released into the sea, Dr Pornsri explained to the Phuket Gazette earlier this week.

“The level of hydrocarbons will indicate how much oil [cooking oil, engine oil and other forms of oil] is being released,” she said.

“The test results should be available within a week,” Dr Pornsri said this morning.

The seawater quality at Patong will continue to be tested every two months as part of a campaign to monitor water quality at many key tourist beaches on the island, as announced by Governor Maitri on Wednesday (story here).

Governor Maitri’s announcement follows Phuket Gazette reports of severe “browning” of the water at the southern end of Patong Beach earlier this week, prompting local officials to vow to track down the source of the contamination (story here).

Present to watch the proceedings today was French honorary consul Claude de Crissey, who along with his counterparts Seven Smulders from the Netherlands and Dirk Naumann from Germany, has long called for officials to tackle the problem of dirty water at the beach.

“We would like all relevant organizations to publicly reveal the test results on their websites, so tourists understand what the problem is and – with positive results – can regain [enough] confidence to [once again] enjoy the beach,” he said.

Governor Maitri supported the call to make the test results available on line.

“This morning I spoke with the Tourism Authority of Thailand [TAT] Phuket office, the Phuket Environmental Office, the Phuket office of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), the PMBC and other relevant organizations. I want all of them to post the seawater test results on their websites,” Governor Maitri said.

— Irfarn Jamdukor

Phuket News
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