Local environmental group Sustainable Mai Khao reported large tar balls strewn across large sections of Nai Yang Beach yesterday, while The Phuket News received independent reports of tar balls starting to wash ashore at Patong.
Oil first started washing ashore Phuket at Mai Khao Beach Sunday last week (June 13), but by Wednesday and Thursday last week (June 16-17) was starting the plague other popular beaches such as Kata and Nai Harn beaches, some 37 kilometres away at the southern end of the island.
“In the [southwest] monsoon season every year Phuket is likely to have some tar balls coming ashore,” Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong from the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) told The Phuket News today (June 21).
“Some people link this phenomenon to Sri Lanka. However, we have checked the model for the tides and found that any oil spill [from the ‘X-Press Pearl’] should not affect the west coast of Thailand,” he said.
“We are still looking into where this oil may have originated from,” he added.
“We have collected samples of the tar balls and gone to check the congestion of the tar balls on the beaches. Right now, we are checking its ‘fingerprint’ to see the composition of the oil and to find its origin,” Dr Kongkiat explained.
While the oil washing ashore has caused much alarm for local residents, Dr Kongkiat said his team had yet to confirm how much damage has been done.
“We already sent staff to collect samples of seawater and other natural resources to check whether the oil has harmed animals. However, so far, we have not seen any deaths of marine animals from the oil spill,” he said.
Presenting some good news, Dr Kongkiat confirmed that the sperm whale covered in oil rescued at Bang Tao Beach last week has recovered and already been set free.
“We provided treatment to the whale until it recovered its health, and we have already released it to the sea,” he said.
Staff from the PMBC reported yesterday (June 20) that they along with officers from Sirinath National Park had inspected Nai Yang Beach. The team found that in heavily affected areas on the sand the officers found the tar balls had a scatter density of129 grammes per square metre.
The PMBC staff also water samples for further analysis of the total petroleum hydrocarbon content in seawater.
Wherever the oil spill originated from, it appeared that Phuket had taken the brunt of the spill washing ashore. An inspection of Thai Mueang Beach, north of Phuket, last Wednesday (June 16) recorded a scatter density of only 25g per square metre, the officers noted
National park officers and local residents together cleaned up the beach in yesterday afternoon.
Local environmental group Sustainable Mai Khao also joined national park officers for a cleanup this morning.
Further cleanups will be held at Nai Yang Beach tomorrow and Wednesday, starting at 9am. The meeting point to join the cleanups is in front of the national park main office, Sustainable Mai Khao noted on their Facebook page.