17,000 households in Kulai go dry after ammonia pollution in Johor river; PUB also stops treatment of water at Johor plant

The Sungai Johor water treatment plant in July 2016. The plant is now temporarily shut due to the ammonia pollution.
The Sungai Johor water treatment plant in July 2016. The plant is now temporarily shut due to the ammonia pollution.PHOTO: BERNAMA

SINGAPORE - High-level of ammonia pollution in Johor's Sungai Sayong, which has disrupted water supply to about 17,000 households in Kulai, has also forced Singapore's national water authority PUB to stop treatment operations in its waterworks there on Thursday (April 4) afternoon.

In a statement released on Thursday night, PUB said that the shutdown at the Johor River Waterworks, which it owns and runs, has disrupted its water supply to Singapore and some parts of Johor.

But water supply in Singapore is not affected, added PUB, as it has stepped up local production at the desalination plants and waterworks to meet demand.

PUB said it is monitoring the raw water quality in Johor River closely and "will resume abstraction and treatment of raw water when water quality is suitable".

Under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons of water a day from the Johor River, and is obliged to provide Johor with treated water up to 2 per cent of the water imported. Singapore has been supplying more to Johor at its request.

Johor International Trade, Investment and Utility Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said a reservoir at a bio-composite centre next to a palm oil refinery in Sedenak burst, causing the ammonia-contaminated water to flow into the river, which is one of the creeks that supplies raw water to Sungai Johor.

Mr Puah, who is also Bukit Batu assemblyman, said the incident occurred at around 7am on Wednesday.

"At around 6.30pm, both the Sayong 1 and Sayong 2 water treatment plants, had to be shut down, as it could not process the raw water due to high levels of ammonia," he said in a statement on Thursday, according to reports in Malaysia.

He said as a result, at around 5.30am and 11.30am on Thursday, the Semanggar and Sungai Johor water treatment plants had to be shut down.

Mr Puah added that Johor's Tai Hong water treatment plant also ceased operations.


He said the authorities have taken the necessary action against the refinery by cancelling its raw water abstraction licence and serve a compound notice following the incident.

"The Johor government will not compromise over the incident and the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) has cancelled its water abstraction licence with immediate affect," he added.

Mr Puah said that Kulai was the only affected area, adding that the water supply would be restored fully at about 10pm on Thursday.