JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While the authorities are cleaning up Sungai Kim Kim to curb the spread of pollution in Pasir Gudang, there are new signs of other waste dumping sites within a 5km area.
A check by The Star in Kampung Pasir showed that solid waste, mainly from construction, was being dumped about 50m from the river.
One of the discarded items spotted had the name of a major chemical company.
It is learnt that, so far, more than a dozen other sites have been discovered and the authorities are looking for more sites as they widen their checks around Sungai Kim Kim.
It is also learnt that some houses along the river have been turned into possible "landing points" for illegal chemical dumping, which is mainly done at night.
These house owners are paid for each lorry load and on some days there are a few lorries going into the area to dump chemicals or construction waste.
A resident known as Mat said this has been going on for a long time, with some of the houses even putting up zinc hoarding to prevent prying eyes.
"They are very fast. They put the hoses into the river and leave as soon as possible," he said, adding that many of the residents were ignorant and did not know that the chemicals were harmful.
"Now, because of their action, this disaster has happened and all of us are affected. I hope the authorities will take stern action," he said.
He added that the authorities needed to find a long-term solution to stop the residents from working with syndicates which bring in chemicals from the nearby industrial estate.
Another resident, who wanted to be known as Majid, 47, said some of the houses in the area had been turned into dumpsites.
"I am not sure about chemical waste but construction waste is being dumped close to the river.
"There are slopes behind every house a few metres from the river where some of the owners have reclaimed by piling up soil behind their houses," he said.
He added that these activities have been going on for quite some time and he does not know when it all began.
Kampung Pasir Putih chief Suhaimi Ahmad Shah confirmed that a few locations in Pasir Putih have been turned into illegal landfills by contractors hired by the local authorities.
He hoped that action will be taken immediately to address this matter, especially houses along Jalan Selasih 4.
Johor Department of Environment (DOE) director Mohammad Ezanni Mat Salleh, when showed all the photographs by The Star reporter, said the DOE would investigate the matter and would order immediate action to be taken.
Malaysian Nature Society vice-president Vincent Chow said he is convinced that the residents knew about this illegal dumping activity.
"It is just sad that they have made this into a living and the authorities need to educate them that this is wrong and harmful to them and their families," he added.
Mr Chow also urged the DOE to speed up their checks on all chemical factories in the area, as he is certain that those carrying out illegal dumping would now look for other rivers to throw their waste.
"Please do not wait until this Pasir Gudang disaster is over to check the companies.
"The government should also rope in other agencies such as the Forestry Department, Drainage and Irrigation Department and local councils to immediately start checking waterways, jungles and open spaces and keep an eye on these chemical factories.
"Those involved will surely try to get rid of all their chemical waste elsewhere to avoid being caught," he said, adding that there should be long-term measures instead of just resorting to "knee jerk" reactions during a crisis.
Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin had earlier announced that as a long-term measure, the DOE will be carrying out checks on 252 chemical factories in the area after the crisis is over.