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Authorities at odds over source of river pollution

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PUTRAJAYA — Water authorities in Selangor and the federal government cannot see eye to eye on the source of Sungai Semantan’s pollution, which led to closure of the Langat and Cheras treatment plants last Friday.

Selangor tourism, consumer affairs and environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong is convinced a factory in Bentong was the source but Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said there was no confirmation yet.

Wan Junaidi told reporters yesterday the Department of Environment (DoE) was still seeking the cause of the pollution.

“We are still trying to trace the source as it could come from anywhere. It could be attributed to factories operating along the (Semantan) river but we still need time to confirm this,” he said.

“The claims made by the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) and Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd is also in the midst of being confirmed.”

Wan Junaidi said he stood by his officers’ commitment to uncover the source of
the pollution.

“I don’t deny my officers are late to the site (of the factory Wong had identified), but that is because they need time to get to the location after they were informed by the investigative team,” he said.

“I don’t understand why is this a matter of public complaint. It’s unfair to my men as they are doing the same thing as SPAN and Air Selangor. They are just
as committed.’’

Wan Junaidi said the state government played an important role in ensuring factories did not operate near rivers.

“It is all up to the state government to enforce this matter. Factories are not meant to operate at riverside or catchment areas, period,” he said.

“DoE cannot possibly monitor every single oil drum out there simply because people think they should,’’ he said, referring to the discovery of an illegal factory which had caused the shutdown of the Semenyih water treatment plant
on Sept 22.

On Monday night, Wong had issued a statement saying SPAN and Air Selangor had identified the factory in Bentong to be the culprit.

She said the surveillance team had been investigating the source of the pollution since Friday in Pahang and it was traced back to the point of discharge at the factory.

“Water sample at the source were taken and it was found to be similar to the odour detected at Sungai Serai Outlet Portal and Sungai Langat Intake,’’ she said.

Wong wanted Pahang’s DoE to explain how they could have concluded Sungai Semantan was “pollution-free”.

“The threshold odour number was at 18 and remains pervasively high,” she said. The number dictates how many dilutions it takes to produce odour-free water.

Wong said the state department director might claim the water was free of contaminants, but preliminary test results and also Monday’s inspection
revealed otherwise.

“Results from the water samples collected on Oct 7 and 8 at the Sungai Serai Outlet Portal detected the presence of Teradecane, Pentadecane and Hexadecane, compounds that contribute to the unusual odour in the raw water,’’ she said.