Saturday, November 2, 2013

After Oil Tragedy on Ko Samet:
Ao Phrao Beach will reopen for Tourists

See the locations on Ko Samet Google Map

Picture by Tiwa York on Twitter
Workers starting cleaning at Ao Phrao Beach on Ko Samet, where oil leaked from a pipeline spoiled the beach

"Black day for Samet", wrote The Nation. Indeed: On Saturday 27 July an offshore pipeline has released about 50 000 litres of oil into the Gulf of Thailand, about 20 kilometres off the coast of Rayong. From Sunday night on black oil waves rolled in at Ao Phrao, one of the most beautiful white sand beaches of Samet island.

On Monday Koh Samet has been declared a marine disaster area. Rayong Governor Wichit Chatphaisit declared, that action was being taken to prevent the leaked oil from spreading to other beaches on the island. And Ao Phrao beach was closed for tourists. Over 1500 workers and soldiers in white suites started to clean up the polluted beach (see pictures by Greenpeace). It was expected that this would take two weeks according to Sumet Saithong, chief of the Laem Ya Samet Islands National Park.

Also the Tourism Authority of Thailand was on high alert, because Ko Samet is visited by one million tourists every year. Chuchart Oncharoen, its director for Rayong, told the "Nation": "Ao Phrao is on the west coast of Samet, but most of the island's hotels and resorts are on the east coast, which has not been affected by the spill." But locals were very worried. Prapan Sukrachang, chairman of Samet Passenger Bus Service Club, said tourists could change their destinations after the oil leak hit Ao Phrao. "We expect the island's tourist income to halve", he told Bangkok Post. Pariya Tantakasem, owner of Samet Cabana resort, said many reservations have been cancelled and bookings are now down 50%.

The oil pipeline, that leaked, belongs to government owned PTT Global Chemical Public Limited Company. It said the leak has been fixed.

On Wednesday the oil spill reached smaller islands nearby Ko Samet, as Associated Press reported. Marine and Coastal Resources provincial director Puchong Saritdeechaikul said Wednesday that an initial inspection of the coral reef 100 meters (328 feet) from Prao Bay showed that it had not been damaged by the oil slicks. But rough seas and strong winds spread thin films of oil to a rocky bay farther north of Ao Phrao, said Rayong Deputy Governor Supeepat Chongpanish.

Picture by Tiwa York on Twitter


2.8.2012
Diving for corals probably will be banned: The chief of Khao Laem Ya-Koh Samet Marine National Park, Sumet Saithong, issued a statement that 70 per cent of corals were contaminated with crude-oil stains, after he assigned divers on Wednesday to take underwater photographs in unspecified areas near the tourist island, as The Nation reports. Pollution Control Department director-general Wichien Jungrungruang estimated it would take more than a decade for the corals to return to normal condition. Therefore the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said diving would be banned at these coral reefs. It will discuss the proposal with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, which is authorised to impose such a ban, Marine Department director-general Noppol Srisuk said.
Then there are worries about consumption of seafood harvested in areas around Koh Samet. Monitoring of seawater conditions and collection of seafood for inspection are under way according to Deputy Public Health Minister Sorawong Thienthong. And Fisheries Department director-general Wimol Jantrarota said acoording to The Nation: "Don't avoid it, just sniff it first to see if it smells of crude oil." But there are also concerns about the chemicals used to disperse the oil. Sorasak Saensombat, director-general of the Marine Department, said that he had ordered PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) to stop using chemicals since Monday. However, PTTGC has insisted that the chemical it is using to disperse the oil spreading over the Gulf of Thailand is safe for the environment and complied with the Pollution Control Department regulations. "When asked to name the chemicals, PTTGC president Bowon Vongsinudom said he could not remember the exact name", wrote The Nation.

Samet Map & Guide is reporting about the condition of the other beaches on Koh Samet. Blogger Richard Barrow has arrived on Koh Samet and reports here.


3.8.2013:
Will Seefood be affected by the oil spill? Thai state health agency has said it will study the impact of the oil spill on marine life around Koh Samet's Ao Phrao, saying toxic substances from the crude oil may enter the food chain in the next three months, reports The Nation.


5.8.2013
Ao Phrao Resorts to reopen - but swimming not allowed: The sea off Koh Samet's Ao Phrao and nearby areas, affected by the July 27 oil spill, has almost returned to normal following the clean-up operation, Rayong governor Wichit Chartpaisit said acoording to Bangkok Post. Ao Phrao and other resorts in the area were expected to reopen next week. However, swimming may not be allowed, due to pending sea water inspections.


6.8.2013
The Pollution Control Department (PCD) will test the quality of seawater and air around Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park for one year, reports The Nation. PCD director-general Wichien Jungrungruang said tests of seawater samples collected from Ao Phrao showed that the seawater did not have any contaminant. "But we will conduct tests at 18 spots around Koh Samet too and the results will come out by August 13." Starting from mid-August, the PCD will collect samples from affected beach and sea areas to determine whether they are contaminated with total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). "These tests will continue for one year," he said.


8.8.2013
Corals, marine life destroyed in oil-spill areas: The state marine-watch agency has found that some coral reefs in the oil-slick-affected Ao Phrao area of Koh Samet have been killed off by bleaching, and some marine life had been reduced by up to 20 per cent. The team's report was released by the Marine and Coastal Resources Depart-ment director-general Noppon Srisuk. Read more: The Nation. See video on youtube.


13.8.13
A test by the Pollution Control Department has found that the level of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) in samples of seawater in Ao Phrao and Ao Look Yon, collected on 10.8.2013, exceeded acceptable standards, reports The Nation. Visitors are being told to avoid swimming in these two areas. Saturday 12.8.2013 Inspectors wearing white biohazard suits collected sand samples from the 400-metre-long beach. Ao Phrao Beach.


24.8.2013
"It is still not safe to swim in Ao Phrao," Wichien Jungrungruang, Pollution Control Department (PCD) director-general, told the press according to The Nation. He did it after the fourth round of tests. The hazardous chemicals detected include arsenic, cadmium and mercury as well as traces of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH). The PCD will continue conducting tests at least until October. Seawater samples will be collected twice a week and the results will be revealed to the public at least once a week. For other beaches on Ko Samet there is no warning against swimming.


29.10.2013:
On Friday November 1 Ao Phrao Beach is reopened for tourists, as The Nation reports."The seawater started to return to normal at the end of September," Udom Kraiwatnussorn said in his capacity as secretary to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Vichet Kasemthongsri. What does this mean exactly? Seawater-quality tests have showed that Petroleum hydrocarbon has dropped to less than 1 microgram per litre of seawater, and mercury has plunged below 0.1mcg/l. Chote Trachu, permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, said monitoring of the oil spill's impacts on marine and coastal ecology would continue for at least one more year.


2.11.2013
Questions remain after reopening of Ao Phrao Beach: "More detailed tests are required to determine if the bay is really fine," Assoc Prof Renu Vejaratpimol of Silpakorn University said accoprding to The Nation. "Occupancy rate at local resorts now stands at 20 per cent, compared to this period last year when all the rooms were booked," Pisanu Kemapan, chair of the Samet Restaurant and Resort Operator Association, said. Rayong Local Fisheries Association's chairman Jaturas Iamworanirun said he still found huge numbers of razor clams dead on a Samet beach last week, which was proof that the environment on the island had not fully recovered.


Please contribute to the accuracy of this report: Anyting wrong? Has something to be added? Send E-Mail to hasmartin (at) bluewin.ch. Thanks for your help!