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Phuket medical waste threatens bacterial fallout

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket medical waste threatens bacterial fallout | The Thaiger

SPECIAL REPORT

With Phuket’s primary incinerator out of action while awaiting repairs, an environmental expert is concerned about the facility’s capacity to burn medical waste properly. Chief among the concerns is avoiding the potential bacterial cloud from inundating the surrounding community at Saphan Hin.

The Gazette’s Saran Mitrarat reports.

PHUKET: The new 960-million-baht incinerator that fired up at Saphan Hin in 2012 is working at near-capacity, torching about 700 tons of trash a day.

Meanwhile, the original incinerator has been shut down pending budget approval of more than 530mn baht for a major overhaul (story here).

The extra load on the new burners is cause for concern, said Nutthakrit Polpetch, the Environmental Specialist at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) Phuket office.

“If the medical waste brought to the facility is not incinerated completely, what will happen to the surrounding community?” he asked.

The original incinerator, which was state-of-the-art when it was launched more than a decade ago, was designed to properly dispose of the medical waste delivered to Saphan Hin from the six major hospitals across the island, Mr Nutthakrit explained.

“There are no health issues when medical waste if incinerated properly. All bacteria are guaranteed to be killed when incinerated for one to two minutes at temperatures between 850 and 1,000º Celsius,” he said.

“But right now, medical waste is incinerated with regular trash, and regular trash is incinerated at temperatures between 700 and 900ºC.”

MAX BURN

Phuket City Municipality Environmental Division chief Prachum Suriya, who heads the trash disposal center at Saphan Hin, played down any concerns about the disposal of medical waste.

“The two burners in the incinerator that are still in operation can burn at temperatures up to 900ºC, which is hotter than the minimum temperature needed to safely dispose of medical waste,” he said.

“Although we mix the medical waste with other trash, we always ensure that burn temperatures are at maximum.”

Mr Nutthakrit questioned the ability of the current incinerator to consistently burn at maximum heat, especially with the onset of the southwest monsoon bringing heavy rains this month.

“As soon as you start adding wet waste to the mix, the burn temperature is guaranteed to fall,” he said.

FALLOUT

Mr Prachum explained that about 1.2 tons of medical waste is delivered to the incinerator every day.
“We add about 200 kilograms to each burn to make sure all of the medical waste is disposed of on the same day. We cannot stockpile it and burn it later. That alone would be a health risk,” he said.

Activated carbon is used to remove all dioxins from air escaping up the smokestack, and a calcium oxide (quicklime) solution is used to reduce any acids from air and solid waste, explained Mr Prachum.

“We have sensors at the top of the smokestack to warn us if any unacceptable levels of pollutants are escaping into the air,” he noted.

“Also, all ash from the incinerator is placed into landfill pits that are lined with thick rubber walls. This ensures that no pollutants can leach into the soil and contaminate the ground or a water source.”

Mr Prachum proudly stated: “Our facility has passed every annual test conducted by the Pollution Control Department [PCD]. Please have faith in us, we have a good pollution control management system.”

DUBIOUS

Despite Mr Prachum’s claims, Mr Nutthakrit remains doubtful that the incinerator is safe when disposing of medical waste.

“First, the PCD tests can only find what they are looking for. The PCD tests for total suspended particulates (TSP), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen chloride, mercury, cadmium, lead, dioxins and the opacity of emissions from smoke at the incinerator,” he said.

“However, the PCD tests do not confirm whether or not harmful bacteria are being released into the atmosphere.”

Although the emissions from the smokestack might not be visible to the naked eye, Mr Nutthakrit explained that it does not mean the emissions are not harmful.

“As everyone knows, medical waste contains a lot of bacteria, and bacteria in the air can spread easily, especially when it is windy or if there is a lot of rain,” he said.

“This can seriously affect the people who live or spend much time in the area around there… The people most likely to be affected are those living in the Klong Koh Pee Community, the people who collect garbage from the landfill and the residents from Phuket Town who come to Saphan Hin Park to exercise.

“We have to make sure that we cause no harm to anyone.”

Mr Nutthakrit remains so unconvinced that the disposal of medical waste at the incinerator is safe that he sends teams of officers to conduct random checks to ensure the burners are operating at optimal temperatures.

“So far, every time we have checked, the burn temperatures were more than 850ºC, but that doesn’t mean we will stop keeping an eye on them,” he said.

“We must make sure that all trash is incinerated properly.”

NO CHOICE

Mr Nutthakrit admitted that he understood the staff at the incinerator were doing the best they could under the current circumstances.

“We have no choice. The appropriate incinerator will remain offline until Phuket City Municipality receives the budget to fix it,” he noted.

“The municipality applied for the 530mn baht in the fiscal 2015 budget. Other funds will be drawn from the environmental budget, too. They have our full support to get the primary incinerator fixed as soon as possible.”

However, Mr Prachum has previously pointed out that even after the budget is approved, it will take about two years to complete a full refit of the original incinerator.

ON THE ROAD

Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Kajohnsak Kaewjarus said he had full confidence in the incinerator staff to competently dispose of all medical waste brought to the facility.

His main concern, however, is the medical waste that doesn’t make it to the site.

“Veterinary surgeries and small clinics are not bound by the same strict regulations that hospitals must adhere to, and so many of these businesses simply add their medical waste to their regular trash,” Dr Kajohnsak said.

Some clinics deliver their medical waste to the nearest hospital for proper disposal, but often the waste, bundled with daily refuse in a black plastic bag, is dumped on the street as regular garbage, or in an unsealed trash can to await collection.

Stray dogs can tear at the plastic bags in hopes of a sniff – or a taste – of what’s inside, Dr Kajohnsak explained.

To combat the problem, the PPHO has joined a trash-separation project that is to launch in Phuket on World Environment Day, June 5 (story here).

Under the project, special refuse bins slated for medical waste will be installed at locales throughout Phuket.

“Garbage trucks dedicated to medical waste will collect the waste to ensure it is not mixed with regular trash when it is picked up,” the health chief explained.

Mr Prachum stands united with Mr Nutthakrit and Dr Kajohnsak in his support for the trash-separation project, he said.

“It will help to ensure that medical waste is collected properly and not mixed with regular trash when it is brought to the incinerator.

“This alone reduces the health risk to the public and to our staff

— Saran Mitrarat

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Crime

Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room

The Thaiger

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Mystery surrounds security guard found dead in his Phuket room | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Phuket Hot News

The security guard of a hotel in Nai Yang, northern Phuket, 52 year old Yingyot Butsabong, from Maha Sarakham province, was found dead yesterday (October 16) in his room. Police remain mystified how the man came to grief.

A woman named Supattra received a call from the hotel he worked at and was informed that he didn’t show up at work yesterday, so she went to his apartment to check on him.

She saw that his room was locked from the inside, so used the key she had in her possession to open the room and found Yingyot laying on the floor, face down. She thought he was just sleeping so she tried to wake him up but once she flipped him, she found that he already passed away.

She immediately called Saku police, and once on the scene, police found that there was some blood on the floor. The man had a 2 centimetre wound on his left eyebrow which was deep into his skull. There was also a wound on his chin about 1 centimetre long and about a centimetre deep. His left eye had a bruise which looked like he was attacked by a hard object.

Police report that he had been dead for around four hours in the room.

The room was not ransacked and there was no sign of fighting or theft. His body has been sent to Thalang Hospital for a detailed autopsy and to look into the cause of death.

SOURCE: Phuket Hot News

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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Bangkok

The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations

The Thaiger

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The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com

In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.

But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.

Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.

In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.

The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.

By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.

Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.

You can read the full list HERE.

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

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