“We have just started to inspect and test wastewater at hotels in Patong,” Khanchit Soontrakorn of the Regional Environment Office (Region 15), which is based in Phuket confirmed to The Phuket News today.
“Today, we collected samples from three randomly selected hotels. We want to find out the BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) of the wastewater discharged at each hotel, so we can determine the toxicity of the sewage being released,” he said.
“Our plan is to collect samples of wastewater from 30 hotels in the Patong area in three weeks.
We know there are more than 30 hotels in Patong, but we need time to work with only three officials from my office,” Mr Khanchit added.
The regional environmental chief also assured that his office will keep randomly testing wastewater discharged from hotels in Patong after the checks on the first 30 hotels have concluded.
Mr Khanchit did not elaborate on any action his office would take if his teams found any hotel discharging wastewater containing illegal amounts of contaminants.
He also did not clarify whether the three hotels tested today discharged their wastewater into the sewers that feeds the Patong Wastewater Treatment Plant – or if they simply emptied the wasterwater in drains the poured into the Pak Bang Canal, which runs through the heart of Patong.
However, Mr Khanchit did add, “We also have to force Patong Municipality to reduce sewage at Patong Beach.”
Meanwhile, a senior official at Patong Municipality whose key role is to manage the municipality’s environmental affairs today told The Phuket News – on condition of anonymity – that his office “has no idea” how many hotels in Patong are not connected to the town’s main sewerage system.
The officer also said that he had no idea if any enforcement was forthcoming to force such hotels to discharge their wastewater into the drains that feed the treatment plant.
“We have to wait for a committee to be formed to look after that,” he said.
However, the officer did say the municipality would inform hotels with a “warning” urging them to be more responsible with the wastewater they discharge.
The same officer also confirmed that Patong Municipality officials this morning inspected the separation tanks at the wastewater treatment plant in Patong.
“We inspected the ongoing upgrades to the wastewater treatment tanks,” said the official.
“We urged the construction team to work faster. The first tank will be finished ahead of schedule. We expect to the project to be half-finished by the end of this year,” he added.
Under the project to upgrade the treatment plant, the total capacity of the wastewater treatment tanks is to be increased from 21,000 to full capacity at 22,500 cubic meters.
The whole upgrade project is scheduled to be completed by Oct 2019. (See story here.)
The news broke on Feb 9, when Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup publicly confirmed that a fault in the construction of the upgrade to the Patong Wastewater Treatment Plant had allowed raw sewage to flow untreated into Patong Bay, potentially exposing thousands of tourists on Patong Beach to health risks. (See story here.)
The following day (Feb 10), Mayor Chalermluk requested patience regarding information on wastewater released into Patong Bay, visibly turning the seawater at the end of Patong Beach black, as officials investigate the source of the problem.
“We are not sure yet if it came from our wastewater treatment facility, because it was quite far away, about a kilometre from the wastewater treatment tanks,” said Mayor Chalermluck.
“We don’t yet know what happened or where it came from, whether it was from the wastewater treatment or maybe a hotel nearby,” she added. (See story here.)
Dr Wijarn Simachaya, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, was in Phuket in person to witness the damage done just days later.
Dr Wijarn soon pointed his finger towards Patong’s illegal hotels.
“Officials from the Environmental Department’s Region 15 office in Phuket will come to work with Patong Municipality to solve this problem. They will look for the points where illegal hotels are releasing their wastewater into the sea.
“Those hotels will be charged according to the law,” Dr Wijarn said, with Patong Mayor Chlermluck and Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong both present, on Feb 11. (See story here.)
Regardless, it was not until last Wednesday (Feb 14) that local officials issued an formal notice warning the public of the incident. (See story here.)