EARTH Thailand

Hair firm faces charge over chemical fire

Bangkok Post 01 December 2009 | Apinya Wipatayotin and Amornrat Mahitthirook

The Pollution Control Department plans to sue a Japanese hair products company for negligence over a chemical fire last week suspected to have left one person dead and injured nearly 80 others at Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri.

Investigators say they do not know what sparked the fire but oxidation is thought to have been the likely cause.

The victims were not directly affected by the blaze but by toxic fumes which leaked from a container and covered the area as a result of the fire.

Acting Port Authority of Thailand director Sunida Sakulrattana yesterday said the family of Sunee Phupetch had been paid funeral costs and compensation even though the cause of her death was unclear.

Pollution Control Department chief Supat Wangwongwatana said his department needed to study which laws applied before taking legal action against the company responsible.

Any lawsuit would be based on Sections 96 and 97 of the 1992 National Environment Quality Act, Mr Supat said.

Section 96 stipulates that the owner or possessor of a pollution source that causes harm, injury or death must provide compensation to those affected. Section 97 states that anyone causing harm to the environment should compensate the state.

"We are still in the process of evaluating the damage and rehabilitation costs and the amount is expected to be finalised by next week," he said.

More than nine tonnes of sodium persulphate went up in flames last Wednesday after chemical fumes leaked from a 22-tonne container containing goods owned by Chon Buri-based Yamahatsu (Thailand) Co Ltd, a hair products maker.

Sodium persulphate is a bleaching agent used in the hair dyeing industry.

Mr Supat said the latest checks had found no chemical contamination of the air and water at the port and its surrounding areas. The quality of sea water also met safety standards.

The pollution control chief said Wednesday's leak highlighted poor emergency response and early warning systems at the deep-sea port.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said samples of fresh and dried seafood served at restaurants in the province have been collected for testing for chemical contamination.