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Ao Phrao in Koh Samet will officially reopen to tourist this Friday for the first time since it was hit by an oil spill several months ago.
Tests on the seawater have now confirmed that the bay is safe for visitors to enjoy. Petroleum hydrocarbon, for example, has dropped to less than 1 microgram per litre of seawater, and mercury has plunged below 0.1mcg/l.
Udom Kraiwatnussorn in his capacity as secretary to Natural Resources and Environment Minister Vichet Kasemthongsri said yesterday that “The seawater started to return to normal at the end of September,”
An estimated 50,000 liters of crude oil leaked from an offshore pipe owned by PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) on July 27 off the coast of Rayong province. The oil spill hit Ao Phrao hard and it has been closed to the public since July 29. Ao Phrao is a part of Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park.
During the past few months, extensive clean-up operations have taken place and the oil spill’s environmental impacts have been closely monitored. Permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Chote Trachu, announced yesterday that the ecological system around Ao Phrao was clearly recovering. He said “We have found more ghost crabs and other animals on the beach now,” and went on to say that the affected coral reefs also showed signs of improving. Chote said his ministry thus resolved that Ao Phrao should reopen to tourists from November 1 onwards.
However, he said monitoring of the oil spill’s impacts on marine and coastal ecology would continue for at least one more year. An environmental-rehabilitation plan has also been prepared for PTTGC to follow. “The plan, for example, covers projects to expand corals, to plant artificial reefs, and to improve Samet Island’s wastewater-management system,” he said.
Pinsak Suraswadi, a senior official at the Marine and Coastal Resources Department, said the plan would require a budget of Bt166 million. “We will charge PTTGC for that,” he said.
A PTTGC executive yesterday disclosed that it had already paid more than Bt800 million in expenses and compensation related to the oil spill.
To date, PTTGC has paid more than 5,000 small-scale fishermen in Rayong after they reported that the spill had badly affected their livelihoods.