Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Illegal e-waste mountain triggers health fears

Jul 11. 2019
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By Thanapat Kijjakosol
The Nation

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While a police probe continues into an illegal waste site in protected forestland of Sa Kaew’s Wang Nam Yen district, local residents say they were left in fear of hazards to their health and the environment.

About 300 tonnes of industrial and electronic waste remain on the site pending removal in 15 days, after which the Pollution Control Department will check the site for toxic residues. The results are expected to help clarify the risk to local residents.

The PCD earlier this week collected samples of the waste earlier to run lab tests, but the results will not be known for one month. Meanwhile, while Department of Groundwater Resources officials said results from collected water samples will come out in seven days.

Local residents say they want an immediate removal of the toxic waste, which is now being kept under canvas sheets. 

Some villagers, who asked to remain anonymous, also told The Nation that one tailor-truckload per day of the waste was brought to the area over the past two months. The lack of communication from authorities has convinced the villagers that state officials have been involved in and reaped benefits from this wrongdoing.

A police investigation identified the 300 tonnes as coming from an industrial estate in Chon Buri’s Sri Racha district. Instead of being properly sent to a licensed garbage disposal factory in Rayong's Pluak Daeng district, the waste was brought to the 20-rai (3.2-hectare) plot of conserved “Zone C” forestland in the Ban Nong Kae (Moo 8) area in Wang Nam Yen. 

Wang Nam Yen superintendent Pol Colonel Setthanat Timwat said investigators were now probing the household registration number issued for this site, as conserved forestland is normally off-limits to household registrations and industrial activities.

So far the investigation could identify only two culprits to face charges. A local man, Boonyeun Noicharoen, has allegedly admitted to being the business owner, and reportedly confessed to having brought the garbage from a car-crushing metal scrap factory in Sri Racha in order to salvage and separate re-sellable parts. The forest site was chosen because the Rayong recycling factory had insufficient space to handle it, Boonyeun said, adding that the saleable parts were then sent to be sold at Sa Kaew’s Muang district and in Saraburi province. 

Boonyeun faces charges of allegedly operating a factory without permission, an offence punishable with a maximum two-year jail term and/or a maximum fine of Bt200,000. He might also be hit with an additional charge of taking waste from a factory, punishable with a maximum fine of Bt200,000, said Sa Kaew Industry Office executive Somsak Kraikreung. 

The second suspect, local man Sathit Thoopthong, is facing charges of violating the Forest Act, the National Reserved Forest Act and the Groundwater Act was, and has allegedly admitted to being the site’s owner. 

Somsak said his office would also determine if the Chon Buri factory and the Rayong factory were involved in the wrongdoing, and who at these two factories was responsible.

The authority earlier this week inspected the site and rounded up 40 Cambodian workers who were toiling to salvage auto parts, wiring and circuitry there. The migrants were fined a total Bt310,000 for working in Thailand without permission and had already been deported, said a police source.

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