A Thai court has ordered a government agency to rehabilitate a lead-polluted creek and pay nearly $4 million in compensation to local villagers as part of a drawn-out legal battle.

More than 150 ethnic Karen villagers near the Klity Creek in western Kanchanaburi province have suffered from lead-contamination in water, soil and aquatic animals for more than 10 years. The toxic waste was released from a lead-treatment factory that was shut down in 1998.

The creek was villagers' only source of water.

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled Thursday that the Pollution Control Department did not attempt to mitigate the damage in a timely manner.

It awarded each of the 22 plaintiffs about 177,000 baht ($5,800 US dollars) in compensation. It did not specify the time frame for the creek's rehabilitation.