EARTH Thailand

Probe urged for permit allowing for Ming Dih Chemical to increase production capacity

Thai PBS World 13 July 2021

Thailand’s Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit has been urged, by an environmental advocacy group known as Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH), to investigate why Ming Dih Chemical, whose factory exploded last week, was allowed to increase its production capacity of Styrofoam pellets, despite the fact that it is surrounded by communities and is not far from Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

EARTH Director Penchom Saetang claimed today that the Industrial Works Department issued a permit two years ago, to allow the company to increase the production capacity by 15 times the pre-2019 capacity at its factory in Soi Kingkaew, Samut Prakan province.

The factory was burned down in a fire on July 5th, sending plumes of black and poisonous fumes into the sky, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people living around the factory.  Some of the styrene monomer, a colorless poisonous chemical used in the production process and stored in the factory’s compound, leaked into sewers and natural waterways around the factory.

Ms. Penchom said that, even though Ming Dih Chemical did not break the town planning regulations, because it was built there before the law was enforced, the factory should have been relocated, because the area is not an industrial zone, let alone allowing the company to increase its production capacity.

Meanwhile, the Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) has warned people living within a one-kilometre radius from the Ming Dih factory to refrain from consuming fish caught in Chuat Lak Khao canal and from using water in the canal, due to high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the natural waterway and in the environment.

ONWR Secretary-General Somkiat Prajamwong said today (Tuesday) that leaked styrene monomer has been washed from the factory into sewers and then into the nearby canals by water from firetrucks and rain.

Officials have collected water samples from Chuat Lak Khao, Achan Phon and Salut canals and from sewers for tests and found that the water is contaminated with VOCs, he said, adding that recent tested water samples did, however, show improvement in the water quality, but fish caught in canals should not be consumed until the canals are safe.

About 100 tonnes of styrene monomer, left in the factory, were moved to a chemical disposal factory in Saraburi for disposal today.  Officials from the Pollution Control Department checked for styrene vapour in the compound of the factory and found the levels still above the safety standard at 1.8-405.6 ppm.

No styrene vapor was found in the atmosphere within a two kilometre radius of the factory.