JOHOR BAHRU: New sites believed to be chemical waste dumping grounds have been found in Pasir Gudang even as Malaysian authorities declared the clean-up of the pollution at Sungai Kim Kim complete.
The Bernama news agency on Tuesday (Mar 19) said waste disposal works were being carried out by heavy machinery at a site along Sungai Masai near the Pasir Gudang Highway. Several workers wearing protective equipment and clothing were also present at the scene.
According to a report from the Star Online, more than 10 blue barrels suspected to contain chemicals were collected from Sungai Masai, a main waterway that flows into the Johor Straits bordering Singapore.
The new site is about 18km to 20km from Sungai Kim Kim, where pollution resulted in thousands of people falling ill.
On Monday, two police personnel placed a barricade around the area, preventing members of the media and the public from accessing the site.
Separately, about seven barrels were found dumped near Sungai Semilang in Taman Tanjung Puteri Resort, said the Star.
The river is 2km from Sungai Kim Kim. It is also 500m away from SMK Tanjung Puteri Resort, one of the 111 schools ordered shut on Mar 13.
Residents of Taman Tanjung Puteri Resort expressed concern after the blue barrels were found in a drain and underneath a bridge connecting Taman Tanjung Puteri and Taman Pasir Putih.
Ahmad Roh Ariffin, 51, a resident, told the Star Online that the liquid from the barrels had seeped into the river, causing a stench.
“We are worried because the smell is really bad and there are some residents who complain of breathing difficulty and nausea."
In a statement on Monday night, Johor state Chief Minister Osman Sapian urged the public to refrain from going to the two newly found dumpsites. He said he has directed the Department of Environment to investigate immediately.
"I am seriously looking at the reports and complaints about several chemical dumpsites in Masai," he said.
The areas will be closed off until they have been cleaned and investigated.
Photographs of workers wearing protective gear went viral on social media on Monday, raising new concern among Pasir Gudang residents following the dumping of toxic chemical waste.
Bernama said its reporters were stopped from taking photographs by several workers in orange safety apparel. The Malaysian news agency’s reporters were also prevented from getting closer to the scene.