Coal-fired power plant and pulp and paper mill site: Tha Tum Mercury Hot Spot in Thailand
IPEN Mercury-Free Campaign Report
Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand (EARTH), Arnika Association and the IPEN Heavy Metals Working Group, January 2013
In 2009, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP GC) decided to develop a global legally binding instrument on mercury to reduce risks to human health and the environment. The UNEP GC noted that mercury is a substance of global concern due to its long-range transport, persistence, ability to bioaccumulate, and toxicity. Its conclusions were based in part on the 2002 UNEP Global Mercury Assessment which noted that mercury is present in fish all over the globe at level that adversely affect humans and wildlife. In humans, hair is widely accepted as a matrix for reliable estimations of the body burden of methylmercury, which likely comes from eating fish.
This report focuses on a coal-fired power plant and pulp and paper mill in Tha Tum, Thailand, which are part of the Prachinburi Province’s largest industrial complex located 120 km to the East-North-East from Bangkok, and 5.5 km south from the Prachinburi River. Coal contains mercury that is released into the environment when the coal is burned. Air emissions from poorly controlled plants can emit large quantities of particle-bound mercury which tends to fall to earth downwind of these power plants. Mercury in fly ash which is captured by air pollution control devices can also be subsequently released to the environment. Pulp and paper plants can be another mercury source when phenyl mercury acetate is added to inhibit the growth of fungi and contaminates the discharge water.
Fish and hair samples were collected close to the Tha Tum industrial site to confirm whether the coal-fired power plant and/or pulp and paper mill had potentially influenced levels of mercury in the local population of people and fish. In addition, since local mercury releases become global problems due to long range transport we considered how the draft treaty text will address coal-fired power plants as well as the pulp and paper industry. Fish were collected from the Shalongwaeng canal in the Srimahaphot district and hair was sampled among residents from the Moo2 and Moo3, Tha Tum sub-district.