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Solving Samui’s rubbish problem

Tanutam Thawan

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Opinion by Su Buchanan, Samui Times

Fully funded green energy project could solve Samui’s garbage problem but will the Surat Thani Governor allow it?

The escalating garbage problem in Koh Samui is no secret. Since the incinerator broke down over 8 years ago the piles of untreated garbage now tops 300,000 tons. The damage to the environment is undeniable yet the local government seems totally uninterested in dealing with the problem, despite orders from Surat Thani to take action.

However, as desperate as the situation has become there may be a long-term solution in sight. The Samui Times was recently contacted by Ron Carter, the Director for U.S Operations Green Phoenix Energy, Inc who said “We have been trying to bring our “Fully Funded” green energy project to Thailand and particularly to Koh Samui. The FEWS RE-Plant can not only produce green energy, but it can handle “All” the waste produced on the island. From municipal waste (landfill and trash), sewage treatment and even medical waste, without burning it and putting all the toxins into the air. The FEWS RE-Plant also produces 200,000 to 300,000 Gallons of drinking water per day and add to that we also produce hundreds of tons of fish and fruits and vegetables yearly and creating a lot of local jobs.”

When we asked Ron why he wanted to get involved with the escalating garbage disposal problem in Koh Samui and who he had approached when trying to develop an interest in the project he said, “There are two main reasons. From a personal level, I’ve been interested in Thailand and Thai culture for the last 15 years or so. My goal and intention are to move to Thailand within the next 3-4 years. If GPE were to build a FEWS RE-Plant I would get to move much sooner to oversee this initial FEWS RE-Plant and work with other areas of Thailand to build out more RE-Plants. From a corporate perspective, Koh Samui exemplifies the ideal situation for a FEWS RE-Plant. The Plant is designed to handle the multiple challenges the island faces: municipal waste elimination, localized sustainable power generation, provide water that’s safe to drink and sewage treatment. The growth in tourism of the island will only worsen the current challenges unless comprehensive solutions are put in place. Koh Samui would be an awesome place to showcase the FEWS RE-Plant to other potential GPE clients.

We have been working through the Thailand Board of Investments office here in New York and the Bangkok for the past 4 years. Our Local representative from the Thailand Board of Investment is Ms. Anin Meksuksai and after 4 years of working with us, she was able to connect us with Doctor Twarath Sutabutr, SC.D of the Energy Policy and Planning office of the Ministry of Energy and he was very helpful in helping us to understand the process of how the government solicits for energy.

Also during the 4 years that we have been working on Thailand, we have tried to reach out to the Surat Thani governor’s office and various other federal and local offices. We would like to work with not only Koh Samui but all of the islands and then the mainland as well.”

We asked, “What would the implementation timescale be for such a project in Koh Samui, how would it be funded?” Ron explained “FEWS RE-Plants take a total of 28-36 months to complete once contracts are signed. There is a lengthy customizing design phase, which takes into account the topography and land surveys. We have our own funding sources for each FEW RE-Plant. The investors key off a 25-30 Power Purchase Agreement as the primary basis of reaching the desired ROI. The other services provided by the RE-Plant can thus be provided at a reduced amount compared to a stand-alone sewage waste treatment facility or a water treatment facility.

What sort of timescale would you see on the table to deal with the existing problems with the broken incinerator and the tons of garbage due to that?

While the construction of an entire FEWS RE-Plant would take 28-36 months, designing and building the plasmafication portion of the Plant could be completed within 18 months of signed contracts. Admittedly, this does not help with the immediate issue of the broken incinerator, but designing the waste to energy components (the plasmafication design) must be done right. A FEWS RE-Plant is a far superior solution to just incineration because the RE-Plant processes can accept all types of waste and it produces nontoxic exhaust from the Plant.

Once the entire FEWS RE-Plant is completed the exhaust is fed back into the building and cleaned further. So, short answer, 18 months for a solution that is both environmentally sustainable eliminates the variability of contracting out companies to take the trash off the island and take it back to the mainland.”

While this seems like an excellent prospect for dealing with garbage on Koh Samui it would need the go-ahead from the Governor of Surat Thani, a stumbling point for Ron who has been trying to contact him for the last 3 years with little success due to the language barrier and being unable to determine the right person to contact within the Governor’s Staff. With such barriers in place, it seems that Koh Samui will have to wait a little longer for any kind of a solution to a problem that could prove disastrous for the island long term. Ron ended our conversation with the following, “Once Koh Samui’s water, pollution, and sewage challenges become undeniable it will be too late for tourism and its economic importance to the island. I’d hate to see that occur to such a great vacation destination.”

STORY: Samui Times

 

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Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

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