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Search on for fire's toxic legacy

Mar 25. 2014
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PCD urged to check dump for chemical contamination
ENVIRONMENTAL-watch agencies have urged the Pollution Control Department (PCD) to look for contamination by dioxin-furans and other toxic substances in the soil and underground water near the dump-fire site in Samut Prakan’s tambon Praksa.
Dioxins and furans are among the most toxic chemicals known to science and can cause cancer in humans.
The agencies have also asked the Industrial Works Department to investigate illegal dumping and contamination of industrial waste in other garbage dumps in the province.
Apha Wangkiat, an environmental lecturer of Rangsit University’s engineering faculty, said after the huge fire broke out at the illegal garbage dump in Praksa on March 16, no pollution control agencies turned out to examine the level of dioxin-furans.
Dioxin-furans can taint the environment for more than 100 years and contaminate the food cycle.
Monitoring only carbon-dioxide, carbon-monoxide and sulfur-dioxide is not enough to prove the environment surrounding the dump fire is free from the contamination of toxic substances.
“We found the PCD had no capacity to examine for contamination of dioxin-furans in the environment near the garbage dump as it needed a lot of money [to pay] for testing in the laboratory,” she said.
The toxic substances come from the combustion of plastic syringes, plastic tubes, and polyvinyl chloride known as PVC, which have been used in industrial factories.
Apha asked agencies to come forward with cleanup measures for the illegal garbage dump once the fire was out.
Lawsuits were being filed against the owner of the garbage dump not only for compensation for affected people, but also for the cost of containing the fire, she said.
The agencies also should monitor the health impact on officials, firefighters and people who would be at risk from the toxic smog caused by the burning garbage dump.
People living within at least 1.5 to 5 kilometres from the dump site should be monitored for the impact on their health.
According to the Ecological Alert and Recovery Foundation, there were 44 million tonnes of industrial waste produced nationwide during 2012-2013. Of this amount, about 2.75 million tonnes were from hazardous industrial waste. Only 900,000 tonnes of the hazardous industrial waste had been eliminated properly. 
The foundation also found that over 31 million tonnes of industrial waste had been eliminated improperly outside the waste elimination system. 
The foundation’s director, Penchom Saetang, said there were at least 40 locations in the eastern provinces that showed illegal dumping of industrial waste. 
The Industry Ministry’s permanent-secretary, Witoon Simachokedee, admitted about 30 per cent of industrial waste had not been recorded by the proper waste elimination system. 
He ordered related agencies to examine all industrial factories that would not have the capacity to eliminate industrial waste.
Moreover, he instructed that vehicles used to transfer industrial waste for elimination must be registered and have GPS devices installed to indicate their location.
As the current law imposes only a Bt200,000 fine and/or two years in prison for the offence, the law should be amended to impose Bt1.5 million or more, or a fine should be determined according to the damages, caretaker Industry Minister Prasert Boonchai-suk said. 
The jail term should be increased, Prasert said.
In a related development, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited and observed the operation to control the fire at the dumping site. 
The fire at the Praksa garbage dump was finally doused after seven days. 
The Social Security Office has paid compensation to 70 people affected by the dump fire, each receiving about Bt2,000.
Police at Ban Pu police station invited the dump site owner to appear for questioning, but the media were not allowed to report on the interview.

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