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Patong in full bloom: Officials deny brown beach water is sewage dumped in the bay

PHUKET: Government water experts are adamant that the beach water in Patong turning to brown this past week was not related to untreated wastewater pumped directly into the bay. Instead, they say it was nothing more than a plankton bloom brought on by high temperatures.

patong, environment, pollution, animals, health,


Tanyaluk Sakoot

Friday 1 April 2016, 11:00AM


Officials are adamant that the brown water is not the result of wastewater dumped into Patong Bay. Photo: PMBC
Officials are adamant that the brown water is not the result of wastewater dumped into Patong Bay. Photo: PMBC

Officials from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) rushed to collect water samples from three locations at Patong Beach on March 25 after receiving complaints that the water had turned brown and that bathers were complaining of itching and breaking out into skin rashes. (See story here.)

Samples were collected from the Pakbang Canal outflow at the southern end of the beach, near the Police Box at the end of Bangla Rd and at Loma Park.

“The dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH levels are totally safe,” PMBC Chief Somkiat Khokiattiwong told The Phuket News on Wednesday (Mar 30).

“The change in the colour of the water was due to a bloom in Chaetoceros plankton. This type of plankton often blooms near shore when the temperature, the air and the sun are right. When it flourishes, the area will benefit, especially small marine animals,” he said.

“As for skin rashes, this kind of plankton might be itchy, but it’s not poisonous. This happens every year,” he added.

Mr Somkiat gave the water test results as follows:

  • Pak Bang Canal: Salinity 30, Temp 30ºC, pH 7.55, DO 5.98
  • Ruamjai Rd: Salinity 29, Temp 32ºC, pH 7.59, DO 4.17
  • Police box (Bangla Rd): Salinity 30, Temp 32ºC, pH 7.80, DO 7.42
  • Chalermprakiat Rd: Salinity 30, Temp 30ºC, pH 7.67, DO 5.70

 

Asked whether the plankton bloom could have been triggered by wastewater released into Patong Bay , Pornsri Suthanarak, the director of the Phuket Regional Environmental Office 15, said, “I do not think wastewater will be released without passing through the Patong Municipality treatment system first.”

C and C Marine

Asked again, she said, “I have no comment about it.”

However, Ms Pornsri offered, “Such algae blooms are most often caused by a combination of large amounts of nutrients in the water along with suitable temperatures for a spike in plankton growth.

“We were informed of the incident at Patong Beach and we agree with the PMBC’s findings. Our office conducts water tests only twice a year, but we will step in when we receive special requests.”

Asked of her concerns about wastewater in tourism beach areas such as Patong, Ms Pornsri said, “I am concerned about tourist areas, because of trash, wastewater and other environmental hazards.

“We really want people to realize the environment in Phuket is the tourism attraction.”

The Patong plankton bloom follows a sea slug mass death scare at Kamala Beach earlier this month, when black water streaming from a canal across the beach infiltrated the beach water.

However, that incident, also investigated by the PMBC, was also described as a “natural phenomenon”. (See story here.)

 

 

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Joe12 | 17 April 2016 - 15:14:32

Yes Dick, you havent bothered to read and consider what I said, it's just your uninformed derogatory comments again. If you can't understand or think outside of the square I'm sorry I can't help you.  For example, read what I said regarding why Dr Ponsiri declined to comment on scientific grounds whereas you make out it's cultural. So, you are trying to tell people in your posts that from of 6-12 million visitors (or whatever figures people want to use) to Phuket all of their untreated sewage is pumped directly to sea. That is not comment, that is crap.  

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Richard Vickers | 16 April 2016 - 23:59:49

No Joeker, water testing isn't some nebulous science... maybe for your pea brain, but not for me or most other health agencies that test water on a regular basis. And yes...fecal coliform can come from humans or animals... so look around dip-shit...how much wildlife do you see in Patong...compared to the amount of human feces send down the pipes into maxed out septic systems and straight to canals and klongs? And while the jury is out on whether shitty water in and of itself is bad, the more serious issues center on waterborne pathogenic diseases associated with high fecal coliform, which commonly show up as ear infections and gastroenteritis and other wonderful things. Fecal coliform testing is one of the primary tests of water quality that are used to determine water-quality in western countries. And Kurt is right Joeker, you need to read between the lines.  Khun Pornsri made very guarded statements, and when pressed on the issue stated that she had no more comment.  In Thailand, that means she wants to keep her job.

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Kurt | 16 April 2016 - 09:58:43

I red what Director Pornsri said and NOT said.
She said that she 'THINKS' that wasted water will not be released in Patong Bay untreated.
Is she, as a director, not the first person not to think but to know about waste water released untreated at many beaches ?
And asked again, she said: "I have no comment about it".
Why she had no comment about it?

When you live long time in Thailand, you learn to read between the lines. 
In this matter, Phuket authorities just don't want to give 100% openness of the dirty water at a number of beaches.

Thai are quick saying: No comment, I don't know, or they simply deny.
What you deny did not happened and flows over, being quick forgotten.

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Kurt | 16 April 2016 - 09:20:26

Yes Yoda, what is happening around Phi Phi is also happening at Patong, and also happening Samui, but there are currents flushing the untreated 'waste water' reasonable quick away from the island.

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Yoda | 15 April 2016 - 21:52:48

Is what is happening at Phi Phi also happening at Patong Beach? If so something has to be done and it should be their number one priority. If the beaches are polluted then who will come to Phuket?

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Joe12 | 15 April 2016 - 20:32:52

Dick...don't know where you got your science degree from. Read what Dr Pornsri Suthanarak says. Like you, few people understand the commonly used measurements for microbiological water quality. For example, what does it mean that there are "52 MPN fecal coliforms/100ml of water? Is it good to drink? To wash dishes in? To bath in? Irrigate with? To the average person, or even engineers and scientists who don't have a public health or microbiology background wouldn't have a clue. In fact, these units are so obscure that even people who work with them every day for years and make important decisions based on test results often have little sense of how to relate contamination either to cause or effect in a quantitative way. Hence Dr Pornsri states, “I have no comment about it." 

You should also be aware that fecal coliform bacteria are the most common microbiological contaminants of natural waters and not are not derived solely from human faeces - other mammals and birds contribute, even forest matter. Fecal coliform indicates the possible presence of organisms that can cause illness however most of these bacteria are not harmful and are part of the normal digestive system, but some are pathogenic to humans. Note that there isn't currently a quantitative method for measuring specifically human fecal bacteria.

So plankton blooms is a normal phenomena that occurs anywhere in the world. 

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Christy Sweet | 15 April 2016 - 12:17:33

Richard Vickers tells it like it is, please print his comment. Phuket officials are just talk, talk, talk and no action. 

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Richard Vickers | 14 April 2016 - 19:42:14

Nice how the water testing results offer the counts for pH and dissolved oxygen, but nothing for fecal coliform, which is also a standard constituent for determining public health issues (as in how much excrement is in the water). How convenient that they declined to provided those readings. What is evident is that Khun Pornsri seems to know more than she can divulge ("algae blooms are most often caused by a combination of large amounts of nutrients in the water..." i.e.fecal coliform bacteria), because the foolish powers that be in local government prefer to keep pulling the wool over the public's eyes, thinking that things will just go away.  They won't, and people will continue to be concerned until something meaningful is done...if that ever happens. In the meantime, Phuket officials, in their efforts to protect face, don't seem to realize that their faces are being smeared with sewage across the international stage.

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Belzybob | 14 April 2016 - 17:52:34

I agree Jome, beyond comment and beyond credibility.

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Jome | 14 April 2016 - 13:08:43

It is just not worth to comment on this anymore......

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