Worse, tourists have now complained of an itchy sensation from entering the water at the beach.
“This problem has been happening for years, especially after the structures were demolished for encroaching [on government land], Jamlong Sittichock, a 50-year-old local resident at Surin Beach and a senior consultant for the Surin Beach Surfing Association, told The Phuket News yesterday (Mar 18).
“A B300-million project [actually, more than B300mn, see below – Ed] was set up to install a wastewater-treatment system, but the system has not been used. We were later told that some parts of the system were not working, and now more wastewater is flowing onto the beach,” he said.
“We asked the Cherng Talay Administrative Organisation (OrBorTor) what happened. The answer we received was that it [the OrBorTor] is in the process of providing a company to take care of this.
“When still nothing happened, we asked again, and a pool was dug to hold the wastewaster until a truck could be used to suck the out the wastewater [and take it away].
“Later more wastewater just flowed to fill the pool again,” Mr Jamlong explained.
“I am afraid that when the annual rains come [in May], this wastewater will overflow onto the beach. This will definitely affect the seawater and corals. The wastewater will also damage Phuket’s tourism image. So we would like to ask the relevant government agencies, especially Cherng Talay OrBorTor, to quickly solve this problem at the original sources as soon as possible,” Mr Jamlong added.
German tourist Raijer Schmidt, 55, told The Phuket News, “My wife and I like Surin Beach very much. The beach has beautiful scenery and is peaceful, but when we went into the water, we started to feel itchy.
“We felt weird when we saw this black pool of water on the beach. This problem should be fixed as quickly as possible,” he added.
Cherng Talay OrBorTor Chief MaAnn Samran confirmed he knew about the problem and assured that his officers were taking steps to resolve the wastewater on the beach problem as quickly they could.
“The wastewater problem [at Surin Beach] has existed for many years, the same as on Bang Tao Beach,” he said.
“We pushed for a long time for the budget to build a wastewater-treatment system, which we finally were granted to install a system that collects the first-phase wastewater [from Bang Tao Beach and Surin Beach],” Mr MaAnn explained.
“We received B248,773,025 from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Cherng Talay OrBorTor provided B106,746,975. In total, we received B355.52mn. The construction took five years, from 2012 to 2017,” he added.
Indeed, in the car park at Surin Beach is a monument to the completion of the wastewater-treatment system, dubbed the “Water Treatment Plant Cluster Surin Beach”.
In response to the system already failing – but without explaining exactly what has gone wrong with the brand-new system that cost hundreds of millions of baht – Mr MaAnn, said, “Another budget was requested to hire a company to take care of the water treatment system.
“However, the bids did not pass the TOR [Terms of Reference], so we have to open the contract to bids again.
“Some of the TORs have to be changed to make sure the project complies with the law as well as the regulations set down by the Office of the Auditor General of Thailand [which regulates the bidding process for government contracts].
“We have informed the Phuket Governor and asked for his cooperation in solving this problem,” Mr MaAnn said.
In explaining emergency measures taken to prevent the back water from spilling onto the beach, Mr MaAnn said, “To urgently solve the problem for now, the pool was excavated deeper to trap the wastewater in order to prevent it from flowing into the sea.
“After that, wastewater was sucked out of the pool and taken to be treated at the wastewater-treatment system in Bang Tao, which is still working.”
Recognising that current efforts may not be enough to stave off the wastewater contaminating the same beach water that tourists swim in, Mr MaAnn added, “This wastewater might have to be taken to the wastewater-treatment plant in Patong, which would cost more money.”
However, that treatment plant in Patong has enough troubles of its own, with upgrades ongoing and untreated wastewater still flowing into Patong Bay for more than a month. (See stories here, here and here.)
Turning his attention back to getting the Surin Beach wastewater-tratement system up and running again, Mr Ma Ann said, “A company will be hired temporarily for four months under special provisions to check and fix the water-treatment management system.
“The water-treatment system at Surin Beach is expected to be ready for use by next month,” he said, noting that would leave the system out of action for a total of seven months since it first broke down.
“We know about the wastewater. Thank you to local residents and tourists who are aware of this wastewater and have sent their complaints to the Cherng Talay OrBorTor, as well as for raising the issue through the media.
“We confirm that we are not ignoring the problem. When solving any problem for which several government offices are responsible, we need to do step by step in accordance with official processes.
“This is to make the process transparent and to actually solve the problem. Sometimes this process might not be what local residents expect.
“We still have to make this right in order not to cause any problems in the future,” Mr MaAnn added.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WASTEWATER ON SURIN BEACH
Four of 12 Surin beach demands ticked off, says MaAnn
– Jan 3, 2018 (click here)
MaAnn a ‘no show’ as angry residents present Surin Beach demands
– Nov 27, 2017 (click here)
Black wastewater returns to Phuket’s Surin Beach
– May 9, 2017 (click here)
Back in black: Wastewater returns to Phuket’s Surin Beach
– Jan 16, 2017 (click here)
Wastewater streams onto Phuket’s Surin Beach
– Nov 27, 2016 (click here)