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Nine detained over alleged illegal dumping of toxic waste in Johor; 102 villagers evacuated

Nine detained over alleged illegal dumping of toxic waste in Johor; 102 villagers evacuated

Johor hazmat team was dispatched to Kampung Baru Sri Aman, Seelong, Kulai, after receiving a distress call at 10.22pm on Sep 14, 2021. (Photo: Bernama)

JOHOR BARU: Nine people have been detained over the illegal dumping of chemical waste that caused the evacuation of residents in Kampung Baru Sri Aman in Seelong, Kulai, on Tuesday (Sep 14) night.

Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said on Wednesday that they were detained after the environment department (DOE) inspected several premises to find the source of the pollution, according to the Star.

"Among the places checked was a tyre pyrolysis factory. Stern actions will be taken against polluters and those who commit acts that endanger the environment.

"The case is being investigated under Section 34B of the Environment Quality Act 1974 for the illegal dumping of scheduled waste," he was quoted as saying.

On Tuesday night, 102 residents were evacuated from their homes after they detected a foul stench in the area. Four women aged between 24 and 49 have since been sent to hospitals due to breathing difficulties. 

Johor Fire and Rescue Department’s hazardous materials unit chief Saiful Bahri Safar was quoted by local media earlier that they received a distress call at 10.22pm on Tuesday and a team was immediately dispatched to the location. 

The team conducted detection, isolation and damping in a river nearby, and discovered spillage upstream.

Bernama reported that preliminary investigations showed that the spill was believed to be methyl alcohol, a type of scheduled waste, with a concentration of 120 ppm (parts per million).

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methyl alcohol is a colourless liquid with a strong odour. It is a poisonous substance and overexposure can cause death.

Johor police chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay told reporters earlier on Wednesday that four local men have been arrested at 11.30am at premises not far from the scene. 

“Together with the DOE, we have arrested four people, including the owner of the premises, who were suspected of being involved in the disposal of toxic waste,” he told reporters after inspecting the situation at the village on Wednesday, according to Bernama. 

Mr Ayob Khan said the four individuals are local men. 

Harian Metro quoted Mr Ayob Khan as saying that the arrest was made after the environment agency examined the chemical waste believed to be discharged into the drainage and Sungai Tawakal in the village. 

Rubaiyah Mat Sam (left), her daughter-in-law and grandchildren are among 25 families evacuated from their homes in Kampung Baru Sri Aman, Kulai, after a suspected chemical spill. (Photo: Bernama)

RESIDENTS EXPERIENCED DIZZINESS, SHORTNESS OF BREATH

Some of the affected residents said they started to smell the strong unpleasant odour on Tuesday afternoon.

“I tried to find the source of the smell around my house but I did not find anything amiss,” said  Mdm Rubaiyah Mat Sam, 70, as quoted by Bernama.

“My daughter-in-law and I also felt dizzy,” she said, adding that they had to take paracetamol tablets.

Another resident, Mr Hafiz Badrul Hisham, 37, said he started to notice the smell around 8.30pm.

“As the smell got stronger, I tried to locate the source but I then experienced shortness of breath,” he told  Bernama.

In March 2019, several students and teachers experienced nausea, dizziness and vomiting after they were believed to have inhaled toxic fumes caused by chemicals dumped into Sungai Kim Kim, Pasir Gudang, Johor.

The pollution resulted in the temporary closure of more than 100 schools in the Pasir Gudang area, affecting several industries and the lives of the community in the area for about two weeks.

In July 2021, Bernama reported that the Johor Department of Environment had investigated complaints from the public who claimed that Sungai Kim Kim was polluted with a bad odour and black river water.

Preliminary investigations found that the pollution was suspected to be caused by the disposal of wastewater from non-industrial premises, causing untreated wastewater to flow into the river.

Source: CNA/ih

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