PHUKET: Wastewater discharged into the sea at Karon and Kata beaches is safe, a review committee headed by Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha was told yesterday.
Environmental engineer Siripong Pasari of Southern Thai Consulting Co Ltd was called in to explain to Gov Tri what exactly caused the discharge filmed by a German TV crew in Phuket earlier this month.
The filmmakers recorded footage of what appeared to be raw sewage being discharged into the sea at Kata and Karon.
The footage is to be included in an episode next week of the popular German television show We Save Your Vacation.
Also present at the meeting was Vice Governor Nivit Aroonrat, Karon Mayor Thawee Thongcham and local media.
Mr Siripong said the problem was three-fold.
First, the current wastewater collection system in the area pools together rain water and wastewater.
“When it rains heavily the inflow rises greatly. This is compounded in the rainy season when seawater makes its way to the pump houses and mixes with the wastewater.
“When the tanks start overflowing, officials have no choice but to pump wastewater out,” he said.
“But the volume of rain and seawater involved when this happens dilutes the wastewater to make it clean enough to release to the sea,” Mr Siripong said.
“This happens about four to five times a year,” he added.
The second problem was blackouts.
“Blackouts always happen. Often when there is a blackout, the computer at the wastewater treatment facility near the Nong Harn [in Karon] is rendered inoperable and we have to order new parts to get it working again.
“The PLC computer controls the pumps at all six pump houses to coordinate wastewater flow. We did not know that the blackout [on the day the German filmmakers were shooting] had damaged the PLC,” Mr Siripong explained.
The PLC has since been repaired and is working again, he said.
Another factor was that officers stationed at the control center sometimes didn’t constantly monitor the PLC control screen, Mr Siripong added.
“We will install alarms to sound off whenever something goes wrong,” he said.
As for the discharge filmed at Kata Beach, Mr Siripong explained, “The dirty water filmed by the German documentary team was not purely wastewater. The water was dirty because it also included silt runoff that gets caught at the pump houses.
“They have to discharge the silt before it damages the pumps and other equipment,” he said.
Blackouts were also a problem in Kata, often rendering pumps in the area useless.
“We will install power cables directly from the Kata-Karon Municipality Offices about 500 meters away. The municipality has its own generators, so the pumps will always have power,” Mr Siripong said.
He added that the current wastewater treatment system in use in Kata-Karon is only Phase I of the entire system to be installed.
“Phase I covers 70 per cent of Kata-Karon, from the southernmost point on Kata Beach to the far northern end of Karon Beach. We will start Phase II within the next two years,” he said.
“Any buildings in areas not served by the current system usually have wastewater discharged into ‘natural channels’. Some of this finds its way to the pump houses, but some of it sooner or later makes its way to the sea,” he said.
Mayor Thawee said construction of Phase II, budgeted at 132 million baht, will start in 2013.
“This will increase our wastewater treatment capacity by 4,000 cubic meters per day, boosting our total capacity to 10,000 cubic meters per day,” he said.
— Pimwara Choksakulpan
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