Ex-Pattaya councilman linked to Pong chemical ‘dumping’

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The former chairman of the Pattaya City Council gave permission for barrels of an unknown chemical to be dumped on his property in Pong Sub-district, a move that could lead to fines and prison time for the chemical hauler.

Former chairman of the Pattaya City Council Tavich Chaiswangwong (left, wearing white jacket) explains the history behind the barrels disposed on his land.
Former chairman of the Pattaya City Council Tavich Chaiswangwong (left, wearing white jacket) explains the history behind the barrels disposed on his land.

Tavich Chaiswangwong told Banglamung District Chief Chakorn Kanchawattana Aug. 29 that the 50 barrels of a foul-smelling substance supposedly dumped illegally on his soil-sales lot in Namuang village actually were disposed of by an unnamed acquaintance with his permission.

Tavich said he didn’t know what the chemical was or how much would be disposed of, but he was assured by the acquaintance that it was non-hazardous. He said he also was unaware that some of the barrels dropped on his property were open.

Residents contacted authorities on Aug. 27 that they saw an unmarked truck dispose of the chemical barrels on land near a local water supply, raising fears of contamination.

Residents discovered that the barrels – varying in size from 100 to 200 liters – put off a foul smell. Residents were unsure of what the compound was, but some of the barrels were marked “styrene monomer”.

Styrene monomer is a chemical derived from petroleum or natural gas by-products is a kind of chemical “building block” for creating a multitude of versatile plastics and synthetic rubbers. It is a clear, colorless liquid and has been produced synthetically for about 70 years.

Authorities still have not concluded that the liquid indeed is the synthetic styrene, saying they needed to send samples for testing and results would not be known for up to three weeks.

However, Chakorn said the strong odor and some stiffened substances in the liquid indicated it might have been used in the marine industry and could be highly toxic.

If the Department of Industrial Works finds the chemical is illegal, the person or company responsible for the dumping can face up to two years in prison and a 200,000 baht fine.

Pending investigation, the barrels have been moved to a safe location away from any water sources. Tavich’s property remains off-limits.

The former councilman said the property concerned is used by developers needing soil for construction projects.

However, over time, the land decayed and large pools of water formed in the holes left behind by excavators. So he asked people he knew to refill the land with sand, rock, cement and other building waste.

One of those acquaintances asked to dispose of some chemical barrels and Tavich agreed.

Pol. Col. Sakrapee Piewpanit, deputy commander of Chon­buri Police, Sompol Notetaisong, director of the Chonburi Provincial Industry Office, Pong authorities and others joined Chakorn and Tavich of an inspection of the land again on Aug. 29.

Tavich offered his full cooperation with the investigation, saying that if the chemicals are found to be dangerous, he would contact the acquaintance who disposed of them and have that person pay for any cleanup.