ISKANDAR PUTERI, Johor: There could be 46 more potential sources of pollution in Pasir Gudang, detected using satellite data and drone footage, Malaysia's Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Yeo Bee Yin said on Wednesday (Mar 20).
“I do not as yet have accurate figures on whether they are meant for disposal of domestic waste or scheduled waste," Yeo said at a press conference.
Scheduled waste refers to waste that may be hazardous and has the potential to adversely affect to the public health and environment, according to the Department of Environment website.
Due to the lack of "concrete statistics", Department of Environment officers will be sent to the sites to conduct checks, Yeo told the New Straits Times, adding that the list of 46 sites will be sent to the state government for further action.
She assured that none of the sites contributed to the Sungai Kim Kim incident: "There was only once source of gas poisoning, that is Sungai Kim Kim."
The locations were identified via a mix of satellite data and drone surveillance footage obtained while tackling the Sungai Kim Kim incident, where toxic chemical waste dumped into the river led to serious air pollution that caused thousands of people to fall ill. All 111 schools in Pasir Gudang were ordered shut amid the growing environmental issue.
On Tuesday, Malaysian authorities declared the clean-up of the pollution at Sungai Kim Kim complete.
“A total of 900 tonnes of soil and 1,500 tonnes of polluted water has been cleaned,” said Yeo.
In all, 5,848 patients have been treated since Mar 8, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said.
More than 900 victims have been warded, with 25 placed in the intensive care unit.
"I am grateful that there was no death in the incident. The decision not to declare a state of emergency was also right and apt.
“The public wants the criminals who dumped toxic chemical waste into the river to be acted upon and taken to court,” he said.
PREVENTING A REPEAT
Yeo spoke of measures the government would take to prevent a repeat of the incident.
She said that her ministry would form an evaluation committee to look into river pollution in all industrial zones in the country.
“What is being done here, will be extended to other industrial zones in Malaysia. What we learnt from this incident is that we have to tighten the standard operating procedures to protect the environment,” she said.
It was also important to strengthen the machinery of agencies under the ministry for better enforcement, she added.
Yeo also said that the government would be amending the Environmental Quality Act 1974, to ensure no repeats of the Sungai Kim Kim incident and to "severely punish" those found guilty of dumping chemical waste illegally.
Authorities will hold consultations with stakeholders first and the amendments are expected to be tabled in Parliament by the end of the year, she said.
Johor Bahru Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said her ministry would be reviewing all applications and renewals of licences for factories involved in the use or disposal of chemical waste.
Findings of the reviews would be tabled to the Cabinet once the ministry gets the necessary feedback from the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council and the Department of Environment, she told reporters.
Meanwhile, the air and water quality in Singapore, as well as the water supply, remain unaffected, said Singapore authorities on Wednesday.
"The ambient levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC), including benzene, measured at the VOC monitoring stations in the North-eastern region, remain within safe levels," authorities said.
"There are no significant variations in the water quality ... in our local waterways and reservoirs in North and North-eastern Singapore; the waters of our recreational coastal beaches and the Straits of Johor."