EARTH Thailand

Chemical containers washing activities threaten to pollute water sources in Sikhio, Thailand

14 February 2022 | Compiled by EARTH

A recent scoop by The EXIT ThaiPBS news team explored the chemical containers washing activities in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima or Korat, Thailand. 

In the small village of Sub Chumpol, Nong Ya Khao Subdistrict, Sikhio District, up to thirteen facilities conduct the business of buying chemical containers, washing them in the village, and then selling them for further uses. Many of the containers are similar to those used in industrial factories.

In the same village, citizens have reported foul smell, others noticed sheens of oil in the local creek. One reported allergy and irritations from locally sourced tap waters. Those affected speculated that these occurrences were caused by pollutants originating from the chemical containers washing facilities. 

The Regional Environmental Office 11 (ROE11), under the Pollution Control Department (PCD), collected water samples from the Sub Chumpol reservoir and the Isan Kiew canal, both of which were located close to the chemical containers washing facilities. They also collected and tested wastewater from cesspools in those facilities for pollutants. 

REO11’s result for wastewater from the cesspools was revealing. It found Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) at over 300 and 200 times the levels permitted by the Ministry of Industry’s Notification on the Regulation of Wastewater from factories, respectively. Heavy metal, such as Cadmium, Nickel, Chromium and Arsenic were also detected.

“The cesspools in some of the facilities did not have lining. They are normal soil pits.” Said Thananchai Wannasuk, director of REO11. “There are traces suggesting that during rainy seasons, wastewater may flow down the slope to the Isan Kiew canals.” 

REO11 further reported that water quality in the Isan Kiew canal upstream from the chemical containers washing facilities is considered “good”. In contrast, water quality taken from points in the canal close to the chemical-washing facilities range from “usable” to “poor”. 

The Isan Kiew canal flows into the Sub Chumpol reservoir, located in the titular village and is a source of tap water production in many subdistricts in Sikhio. 

Last year, a Sub Chumpol farmer reported that many of her rice died after water she diverted water from the Isan Kiew canal into her field. She had also been afflicted by rashes after contacting water from that field.

The geographical extent of the impact is expanding. Following tips from an anonymous source, ThaiPBS news team found that some of chemicals had been illegally dumped in an empty land.

The Director-General of the Pollution Control Department recently broke silence on the issue, stating that the Sub Chumpol reservoir is at risk of accumulating pollutants. In addition, the Korat provincial governor will come to the village to investigate the issue on February 15th, 2021. 

The chemical containers washing activities at Sikhio are an illegitimate node in Thailand’s flawed waste management system. EARTH has studied the recent epidemic of industrial waste dumping, and suggests that it is symptomatic of corruption in government agencies responsible for regulation transportation and disposal of industrial wastes. 

The story of Sikhio has only added to the growing concerns over the impact of poor waste management on the health and environment of communities across Thailand. 


More Information on the Sikhio Case (In Thai):

[1] Thaipost, “Wastewater Contaminated with Heavy Metal from Illegal Chemical Containers Washing facilities found flowing into Isan Kiew Canal”, Thaipost, February 12, 2021.

[2] Thansetthakij, “PCD found Unlicensed Chemical Containers Washing Facilities spread across Isan – Fears they may cause Pollution”, Thansetthakij, February 12, 2021.

[3] The EXIT Thaipbs, “The EXIT Thaipbs – On Air: Investigate chemical containers washing activities,” Pt 1, ThaiPBS, February 10, 2021.

[4] The EXIT Thaipbs, “The EXIT Thaipbs – On Air: Investigate chemical containers washing activities,” Pt 2, February 11, 2021. ThaiPBS.

[5] The EXIT Thaipbs, “The EXIT Thaipbs – From the Perspective of someone who used to wash chemical containers”, February 11, 2021.


Photo:  The EXIT Thai PBS