On June 16, 2022, a fire was reported at the site of the Wax Garbage Recycle Centre Company in the Nam Pu subdistrict, Ratchaburi Province, Thailand. Although many citizens complained about the company polluting the local environment, especially the Nam Pu creek, the local potable water source, the company keeps endangering the locals. This time, they faced severe air pollution from the burning of chemicals, waste oil, and paint waste.
The EARTH Thailand and The Arnika Association have been monitoring the case of the Wax Garbage Recycle Centre Company for a long time. Last year, we reported about the court case won by local people. After a long period of destroying the environment with impunity, the company was ordered to pay millions of baht in compensation and rehabilitate the environment. Unfortunately, the company representatives continue to treat the villagers with disrespect and pretend not to be responsible for the harm their factory causes. The recent fire is a sad example of this attitude. The aforementioned chemicals (waste oil, paint waste) stored at the site often contain benzene, toluene, and xylene. Burning those substances may lead to the release of toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide.
PHOTO: The fire at the Wax Garbage Recycle Centre Company captured by the Nam Pu citizens.
“Smoke caused by burning benzene, toluene, and other substances may impact the respiratory system and cause chest pains, nausea, vomiting, and troubled breathing. Skin contact can lead to irritation, pain, burning sensations, and inflammations,” explains Penchom Saetang, the director of EARTH Thailand, and continues: “The sad reality is that this is not an exceptional event. The last fire incident is the sixth large-scale fire in the factory during the time it has been in operation.” EARTH has raised concerns about the long-term health impacts, especially those related to chemicals such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), PCC, and dioxins. Hence, locals' health should be monitored for at least three years. Since many of these pollutants are carcinogenic, the health ministry should take charge and monitor possible developments of cancer.
There were also suspicions surrounding the event. Given the large amounts of hazardous substances stored at the site, NGO representatives and the general public were worried that the fire might be an attempt to cheaply destroy the large amounts of industrial waste the company had to deal with. Penchom Saetang spoke on the issue in a recent interview with Pollution-Free EARTH (หยุดภัยมลพิษ Pollution-Free EARTH): “The recent fire at Wax Garbage’s recycling factory has raised many questions. The Minister of Industry had ordered officials to investigate the cause and impact of the fire and to transport leftover chemicals to be properly disposed of within 15 days. But until now, there has been no explanation for the fire's cause. Meanwhile, suspicions are growing among the general public that this was a deliberate attempt to cheaply destroy a large amount of industrial waste the company has to deal with. It is time for the Minister to take responsibility by dealing with the officials who did not perform their duties in controlling the impact of hazardous wastes. Thus, EARTH calls for a full and thorough investigation so that the ministry can act transparently toward the public. Additionally, transparency will ensure that all this toxic waste will be properly disposed of.”
The case of the recycling company illustrates how industrial polluters endanger local people in various ways, not only by their regular procedures but also by different kinds of accidents. This is why EARTH Thailand, together with the Arnika Association and many other environmental organizations, is calling for the implementation of a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR). You can read more about it here.