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No direct correlation between chemical smells and air quality readings: Amy Khor

No direct correlation between chemical smells and air quality readings: Amy Khor

Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor speaking in Parliament on Monday (Apr 1).

SINGAPORE: There is "no direct correlation" between burning or chemical smells and the ambient air quality readings, Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor said in Parliament on Monday (Apr 1).

This was in response to a question by Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah, on whether there was any cause of concern for Yishun residents with regards to burning and pungent smells in the area.

There have been several fires in Johor over the past two months, including fires at two landfills in Bandar Tenggara and Tanjong Langsat and a fire in an oil palm plantation in Punggai.

"Between early-February and mid-March when the hotspots were detected in Johor, the 24-hour PSI readings remained within the good to moderate range, and the 1-hour PM2.5 levels remained in the normal range," Dr Khor said.

She also highlighted the specific measures taken by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to monitor and keep Singaporeans informed of pollution levels in Singapore's air quality and water supply.

READ: Burning smell across Singapore could ease in coming weeks: NEA


NEA uses both satellite remote ​​​​​​​sensing and a network of real-time ambient air monitoring sensors across Singapore to monitor air pollution levels, according to Dr Khor.

In February, satellite remote sensing allowed NEA to detect fire hotspots with plumes of smoke in Southern Johor. This was later confirmed by the Department of Environment (DOE) Johor to be fires at three hotspots.

Prevailing north-easterly winds blew the smoke plumes towards Singapore, causing “intermittent burning smells over the past few weeks", Dr Khor said.

Real-time ambient air monitoring sensors measure key air pollutants, which include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and particulate matter classed under PM2.5 and PM10. With this data, NEA calculates the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) over a rolling 24-hour period.

Readings of air pollutants are available publicly on the NEA website and the myEnv app, which has hourly updates from NEA.

"If there are significant variations above normal levels, unhealthy levels, we would notify the public with this information," said Dr Khor.


Dr Khor also addressed the issue of water quality monitoring by NEA, in response to the illegal dumping of around 20 to 40 tonnes of chemical waste in Pasir Gudang.

Fumes from toxic chemicals dumped in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang in March 2019 caused students and teachers from nearby schools to experience shortness of breath and vomiting. (Photo: Bernama)

According to Dr Khor, chemical waste was not been detected in NEA's water samples, and the agency has not detected any anomalies in the water quality at Singapore's recreational coastal beaches.

"PUB’s online sensors have shown that the water quality of Johor River, our waterways and reservoirs in the north and north-eastern part of Singapore, as well as the water supply is within normal variations," the minister added.

"On-site inspections and water quality checks have also shown no abnormalities.

"This incident has no impact on our water supply as the chemical dumping location is outside of our Johor River catchment area, where part of our water supply comes from."

The chemical dumping in Sungai Kim Kai at Pasir Gudang caused thousands of people in the area to be taken ill. A Singaporean and two Malaysians have been charged in connection with the incident.

READ: Pasir Gudang chemical poisoning: 111 schools shut, suspect to be charged on Thursday

READ: Pasir Gudang's Sungai Kim Kim now clean, safe: Environment minister


Dr Khor emphasised the need for greater cross-border collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore to tackle environment pollution.

"These include the provision of early warnings, and environmental monitoring data and guidelines. NEA and SCDF have been in contact with their respective Malaysian counterparts … to obtain regular updates on the situation there," she said.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates if there are significant developments."

Source: CNA/cc(mi)


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