PATONG: When people noticed that, right after the tsunami, the water in Patong Bay seemed to be the clearest it had been in years, they were not imagining things.
Levels of harmful bacteria in the bay were reduced to nearly zero right after the tsunami, researchers from the Pollution Control Department (PCD) learned when sampling the water on January 20.
The announcement came during an educational seminar for primary and secondary school students put on by the PCD’s Marine Pollution Sub-Division at the Graceland Resort and Spa in Patong late last month.
During the seminar, Dr Pornsook Chongprasith, Chief of the Marine Pollution Sub-Division, said that the number of different kinds of bacteria detected in Patong had fallen from about 1,000 before the tsunami to just two after it.
Dr Pornsook said her office was working hard to raise public awareness, especially among children, about the need to maintain good water quality at beaches. Part of the effort includes increasing the frequency of water quality sampling at selected beaches around the country and assigning each with a rating of one to five stars.
The ratings will be based on such factors as the amount of garbage present, heavy metal concentrations, and levels of bacteria and suspended sediment. Before the tsunami, Patong Beach received a three-star rating.
The star ratings would also encourage local administrative bodies to become more actively involved in beach protection, she said.
The monitoring program is being expanded from 14 beaches nationwide in 2002-2004 to double that number this year. From 2006, 80 beaches will be included in the program starting, she said.
Sampling will take place six times a year in Patong, twice during the high season and four times in the low season.
Starting in August or November, billboards will be erected in Patong showing water quality sampling results and providing the public with tips on how to protect the beach.
This, Dr Pornsook said, will encourage more tourists to visit the area.
It was not reported whether the beach becoming covered in bright green algae during the last high season had cost Patong a higher star rating.
The algae are known to thrive in water with a high nutrient loading. In the case of Patong the “nutrients” came in the form of large quantities of untreated human waste discharged directly into the bay from Klong Pakbang, at the south end of the beach.
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