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Thailand to check 65 plants after blast
Publication Date : 09-05-2012
The massive explosion at the factory of a Bangkok Synthetics subsidiary that killed 11 and injured another 129 people on Saturday has prompted the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT) to examine 65 hazardous factories in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate.
The Pollution Control Depart-ment (PCD) has also called on manufacturers in the estate to reveal to the public and other agencies all hazardous and non-hazardous chemical substances used in their production processes.
The IEAT's deputy governor, Peerawt Rungrueng, said his agency would send teams to investigate 65 factories likely to be at risk accidents inside the estate.
The team will comprise staff from related agencies, local representatives and the Industrial Works Department.
"We will not investigate without participation from local people," he said, adding that the survey was expected to be finished next week.
Currently, IEAT staff are examining damage to the BST Elastomers facility and nearby factories affected by the massive explosion.
The IEAT has also ordered Aditya Birla Chemicals to suspend operations after a chemical leak at its Map Ta Phut factory on Sunday that led to the hospitalisation of 138 people.
PCD director-general Wichan Simachaya said all factories in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate should reveal information about chemical substances.
"Knowing about chemical substances in the production process of each manufacturer would help the community surrounding the estate to estimate the risk of factory accidents," he said.
Process Always a Secret
Since the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate was established two decades ago, information about chemical substances in the production process of each factory has never been revealed publicly or to the PCD. The information was handed only to provincial governors and the IEAT.
"We had to make an effort to get this information, as we needed it to control and prevent pollution in the area," Wichan said.
The PCD has teamed up with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the IEAT to start a project called the "Development of Basic Schemes for Pollutant Release and Transfer Registration System" to collect and register all information about chemical substances being used in the estate.
"We will know the type and volume of chemical substances the factories are using in the production process. We will also find out about the transport routes of these chemicals," he said.
"All this information will be sent to the IEAT and related agencies to estimate the risk to the community."
Wichan said his agencies had also sent a team of inspectors to monitor air quality and environmental impact in 15 communities within 2 kilometres of the estate. The result of this investigation will be disclosed next week.
He insisted that the flammable solvent toluene - released during the blast at the BST Elastomers plant - would not cause cancer.
Anti-Global Warming Association president Srisuwan Chanya said he would file a lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court asking the Industry Ministry to withdraw the licences of the two factories.
He will also ask the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning to withdraw their environmental and health impact assessments so they cannot ask for permission from the IEAT to extend their operations in the future.