EARTH Thailand

Chemical Plant Shut, Faces Probe Over Leak

The Nation 09 June 2010   

Due to the leak, 299 people were hospitalised. Dozens of them were still in hospitals as of press time yesterday.

The factory is located inside the Hemaraj Eastern Industrial Estate in Rayong.

In the wake of the incident, Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand governor Monta Pranootnorapal ordered the suspension of the factory's operations and an investigation into the incident.

"We will have a third party such as the Engineering Institute of Thailand or an advisory company join in the investigation," she said.

Monta added that the executives of Aditya Birla Chemicals (Thailand) must submit a plan on how to provide remedy over the chemical leak, too.

Weerasak Permpaengpan, who heads the Hemaraj Eastern Industrial Estate, said the company must also foot the medical bill of all people affected by the leak.

The company's senior manager for safety, environment and human resources, said the base under a tank suddenly collapsed while workers were pouring sodium hypochlorite into the container.

"The container can hold up to 90 cubic metres but the base collapsed when just 80 cubic metres had been poured in," senior manager, Thakoon Kliangsuawan, said.

He said when the base collapsed, the tank fell and broke.

"But we quickly responded to the emergency by spraying water and lime," Thakoon said.

Huai Pong Police Station deputy superintendent Lt-Colonel Boonyok Chaiyawong said Rayong Governor Sayumporm Limthai had already instructed the Muang Map Ta Phut Municipality to lodge a complaint over the chemical leak.

"They have caused trouble to others," he said.

 Sutti Atchasai, the coordinator for the Network of Eastern Residents, yesterday vowed to work with the leak victims in filing both civil and criminal lawsuits against those involved.

"We are going to set a precedent," Sutti said.

He said those involved must show responsibility over what had happened.

"Chemical leaks have happened time and again," Sutti complained.

He said if the factories or industrial estates failed to prevent such incidents from taking place, his network would go all out in efforts to block any plan to introduce new projects in Rayong.

Sutti said he would today submit a petition to Weerasak and lay a wreath in front of the Aditya Birla Chemicals (Thailand) factory.

He suspected flaws in the management or construction might have caused the chemical leak.

Monta said her authority would next week invite all entrepreneurs with facilities inside industrial estates for a meeting on safety.

"We admit that we are worried about such safety incidents," she said.