Flooding has given rise to concerns about water quality, especially in Bangkok, where downstream flow from other provinces has turned water a dark black.
Everyone has been hearing about effective micro-organism (EM) balls for rehabilitating water, despite widespread discussion about whether they are effective or not.
But EM balls existed before this crisis, such as the ones produced by the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Dasta) two years ago, which are claimed to be more effective. Used widely by government organisations, the Dasta ball was created by Dumrongsak Kaewvongmai, an adviser to the agency’s director.
The Dasta ball is made from natural ingredients such as shrimp feed, chicken droppings, molasses and perlite, blended with water microbes.
Mr Dumrongsak says the microbes consume organic substances, while the perlite, which is a volcanic glass, helps maintain the pH of the water at 5-8 for the bacteria to work more effectively. One Dasta ball can be used in four cubic metres of water, provided the water is not too deep.
After the balls are placed in the water, the perlite will cause them to sink and dissolve within two hours. In 24 hours the water will become clearer and the smell will partly go away, and after 48 hours the water can be clear enough to see the ground at 80 centimetres deep.
The balls can also be used to prevent bad odours from toilets by putting them in every three months. Chemicals, however, should not to be used to clean the toilets or the bacteria will die.
“Dasta balls are the size of ping-pong balls compared with tennis-ball-sized EMs,” Mr Dumrongsak said. “Dasta balls do not use soil in production, and use only three types of bacillus and one type of yeast.”
The balls are already patented and certified by the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research. They have been used in Koh Chang in Trat province and in other areas.
Chatuporn Buruspat, the director-general of the Department of Water Resources, says the prime minister tasked the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry with solving the problem of polluted water. In response, the ministry has asked for 10 million Dasta balls.
“We are also planning to cooperate with the Defence Ministry to produce more of these to distribute to as many provinces as possible,” Mr Chatuporn said, “since it is cheaper when compared with other methods of water treatment and does not affect the environment.”
After asking for cooperation from the government, Dasta has already distributed 300,000 balls to areas with polluted water; 60,000 of them were thrown by the prime minister from a helicopter to treat water in Lop Buri, while 50,000 have been sent to Saraburi. Residents in Saraburi are also helping produce the balls as a way to earn money.
Chatchai Promlert, the governor of Lop Buri, where 400,000 rai of land have been inundated, says that while the balls have not made the water perfectly clear, the smell is gone. Residents also report clearer, less-stinky water after two days. Witthaya Pewpong, the provincial governor of Ayutthaya, says his province also used Dasta balls in the past when a ship carrying 750 tonnes of rice overturned, polluting water in the area.