Toxic solvent in river, so no water for Klang Valley residents

Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin (front row, third from right) in front of the contaminated Sungai Buah. A bund was built across the river to stop the water from flowing into Sungai Semenyih.
Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin (front row, third from right) in front of the contaminated Sungai Buah. A bund was built across the river to stop the water from flowing into Sungai Semenyih.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Fourth time in two months that water supply in Selangor has been disrupted

SEPANG • Hundreds of thousands of residents in Malaysia's Klang Valley are seeing red after their water supplies were shut off.

This followed the discovery that a toxic solvent had been dumped into a tributary of a river that flows into the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant.

According to The Star, the foul- smelling solvent was so toxic that it charred swathes of green grass by the banks of the Sungai Buah. The river is located off the Elite Highway in Sepang and flows into Sungai Semenyih.

The massive disruption in the state of Selangor over the weekend is the fourth time that supplies have been affected in two months.

Earlier this month, the plant was shut down due to "odour pollution". On Sept 23, it was closed due to contamination from Sungai Lalang near the Semenyih Hitech area, and a day earlier, it was shut down due to contamination believed to be from an illegal factory along Jalan Sungai Lalang.

Aside from households, businesses, including eateries, hair salons and laundromats, have also been hit by the disruptions. Hospitals were not spared either, the paper said.

The authorities are racing to clean up the mess by building a bund across the river to stop the water from flowing into Sungai Semenyih and are drawing out the contaminated water to be dumped elsewhere, the newspaper reported.

The 20m bund has been built across Sungai Buah as the authorities work to restore treated water supplies to the affected consumers in four districts in Selangor.

Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali said employees from the Selangor Water Management Board Authority went to the contaminated site to conduct checks after getting reports of a foul smell at about 7.30am on Sunday.

After the bund was in place, pumps were brought in to extract the contaminated water from Sungai Buah. The water was transferred to tankers and deposited in a nearby pond. "We had no choice but to prevent Sungai Buah from flowing into Sungai Semenyih to restart our water treatment. Our priority now is to ensure the 320,000 account holders get their supply as soon as possible," Datuk Seri Azmin said after checking on the clean-up operations on Monday.

He said that although the authorities had yet to identify the culprit, the Selangor Water Management Board Authority had found traces of a solvent at three spots in the river, across the border in Negeri Sembilan. The Selangor state government's executive councillor for tourism, environment and green technology Elizabeth Wong said it believed "pollutants were disposed in Negeri Sembilan knowing that they will reach Sungai Semenyih in neighbouring Selangor".

The Selangor Water Management Board Authority has reported the matter to the police and the Negeri Sembilan Department of Environment, Bernama reported.

Mr Azmin, who is from the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance which controls Selangor, has alleged that there could be sabotage behind the latest disruption. He accused the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and its Umno party of playing a role in a bid to gain power. Umno has rejected those claims.

Although the plant resumed its operations on Monday, the authorities have not specified when supply to affected consumers will resume, the Malay Mail Online reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Toxic solvent in river, so no water for Klang Valley residents'. Print Edition | Subscribe