Thailand: State agencies determined to bring ‘water polluter’ to book

Two state agencies say they are determined an ethanol factory will pay for polluting the Mae Klong River in October 2016 and are demanding almost six million baht (SGD $265,873) for damage caused to the environment.

Pralong Damrongthai, head of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), said his department and the Fisheries Department will continue with their lawsuit if negotiations with the company fail.

On May 15, both agencies sued Rajburi Ethanol Co over the leakage of wastewater containing molasses into the Mae Klong River between October 1-7 in 2016.

Early this month, the court instructed the state agencies and the company to enter negotiations first and try to reach an out of court settlement.

“We are willing to negotiate as the court wishes.  But if the company does not give us compensation, we will continue with the lawsuit,” said Mr Pralong.

PCD laboratory tests showed that wastewater leaked from the plant into Khlong Chalaeb canal, and flowed into the river in Ratchaburi’s Ban Pong district, Mr Pralong said.

Many aquatic species were found dead, including native giant stingrays.

Mr Pralong said the lawsuit, filed under sections 96 and 97 of the Promotion and Conservation of National Environmental Quality Act 1992 with the Ratchaburi provincial court, demands the company pay 5.78 million baht (SGD $256,124) in compensation.

Of that amount, 306,440 baht is for expenses incurred during examination and assessment of water quality and the rest is for damage caused to the environment, which has been evaluated by the Fisheries Department.

According to Mr Pralong, the court asked all parties to see if they could settle the case before bringing it to court. But if they cannot, the court will schedule a hearing.

He said the company’s lawyer was to raise the matter with the Rajburi Ethanol Co’s board and that talks are tentatively scheduled for August 26.

Mr Pralong said the PCD and the Fisheries Department have suggested that Rajburi Ethanol Co admit it was at fault.

A total of 45 giant stingrays were found dead after the leak and lab tests confirmed that ammonia was a key factor leading to the deaths.