EARTH Thailand

Firm faces lawsuits after wastewater leak affects 35 villages in Suphan Buri

The Nation 06 October 2017 | Pratch Rujivanarom

AN ETHANOL factory in Suphan Buri will face several lawsuits for alleged violations of environmental and industrial laws as a result of its wastewater reservoirs being breached, severely polluting a large area spanning three districts in Suphan Buri province.

Thai Agro Energy Company reservoirs in Dan Chang district began leaking on Sunday, causing wastewater to flood more than 35 villages in three districts, Suphan Buri Provincial Industry Office said yesterday.

The Industry Ministry was preparing to charge Thai Agro Energy for violating the Factory Act, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the former deputy director-general of Attorney-General’s Office, Porameth Intharachumnuem, said he would help residents sue the factory for violating the Enhancement and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act.

The factory division head of the Suphan Buri Provincial Industry Office, Somphon Thongkham, said Thai Agro Energy had clearly violated the industrial law for illegally releasing wastewater into the environment, while the company might also be guilty of discharging wastewater that did not meet safety standards.

Somphon said the company could be fined up to Bt200,000 if it is found to have illegally released wastewater into the environment, and up to an additional Bt200,000 if it is convicted of discharging wastewater that did not meet safety standards.

Samples to be collected

However, he said the Industry Ministry’s committee would decide whether to prosecute Thai Agro Energy and determine the amount of the fines.

He also said teams from the Industry Ministry and Pollution Control Department (PCD) had already been dispatched to the factory site and affected areas to gather samples of wastewater and collect evidence.

In a parallel case, Porameth said he was preparing to assist affected people to get legal help from the Lawyers Council Thailand to file an environmental lawsuit against the company.

He said he would also help people to file a petition with the Administrative Court to suspend the factory’s operations until the lawsuit is concluded.

Factory operations have already been suspended for 45 days to enable the company to address the leakage. 

Porameth said the factory could be permanently shut down if it failed to finish repairs within 45 days.

Meanwhile, Suphan Buri deputy governor Pipop Bulthum said local authorities and the PCD had already begun remedial operations while Thai Agro Energy had agreed to pay Bt10,000 compensation to each affected family.

Pipop said the reservoirs had already been repaired and the leaks plugged, while authorities were treating wastewater with “effective micro-organism” (EM) mudballs, a product of a Royally Initiated Project that is used to disinfect contaminated water.

About 590 families in 35 villages in Suphan Buri have been affected by the flooding.