SELANGOR: Malaysian opposition leaders are crying sabotage after a river was contaminated with an ether-based chemical, disrupting water supply to about 1.8 million people.
Selangor state officials said water supply has been restored as of Monday (Oct 31), after authorities scrambled to deal with the octabromodiphenyl ether in the Sungai Semenyih river.
Octabromodiphenyl ether is a flame retardant chemical. "It has a smell and in high doses, can be lethal to fish and even to humans," Selangor's Disaster Management Unit's chief Ahmad Fairuz Mohd Yusof told Channel NewsAsia.
Although the amount of chemical in the river is not lethal, a smell remains.
"So basically the contaminant can be removed by the water treatment facility, but the odour needs to be removed," Mr Ahmad said.
20 tonnes of activated carbon have been put into the river to absorb the contaminant. (Photo: Sumisha Naidu)
The chemical had spread to Sungai Semenyih - which helps provide water to 330,000 households in the opposition-held state - through Sungai Buah, a river that flows from the ruling coalition-controlled Negeri Sembilan.
Opposition figures, including Democratic Action Party assemblywoman Hannah Yeoh, have shared posters alleging this was an act of sabotage.
The Selangor Water Management Board has also lodged a police report in connection with these claims.
However, the Negeri Sembilan and federal governments have denied claims of sabotage, promising a thorough investigation.
These are "serious allegations," said Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, who is also president of Barisan Nasional's (BN) component party the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). He wants the BN government to take legal action against the opposition.
"We can't allow these issues to be played up politically. We will take legal action against them because they tried to deceive the people through rhetoric," he said.
As for the affected residents, including car wash owner Mohd Azhar Aziz, they just want a quick resolution to the problem so that it does not happen again.
Even though supplies have been restored, Mohd Azhar said the water in his home is still discoloured and frothy.
"I'm not the only one who says it. Even my neighbours say that when you turn on the taps, water comes out with fine white bubbles - that's why we're scared to drink it," he told Channel NewsAsia.
"I don't want to talk about politics because I'll get slammed. I just want to say: Take care of your citizens."