JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Two directors and a lorry driver of a used tyre-processing company were charged in the Sessions Court here with being involved in the chemical dumping into Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang.
The three accused are Singaporean Wang Jin Chao, 34, and Malaysians Yap Yoke Liang, 36, and N. Maridass, 35.
According to the charge sheet, lorry driver Maridass, was accused of illegally disposing of chemicals into Sungai Kim Kim on March 7.
Wang and Yap are accused of conspiring with him.
All three were charged under a section of the Environment Quality Act 1974 while Wang and Yap were also charged another section of the same Act.
The trio pleaded not guilty when the charges were read before Judge Hakim Jailani Rahman in Johor Baru on Sunday (March 24). Johor government offices including the court are open on Sunday.
It was learnt that they will face more charges following the incident at Sungai Kim Kim, which affected thousands of lives.
Meanwhile, Johor police chief Datuk Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd was quoted on Sunday as saying police are hunting for another Singaporean suspect in his 30s to assist its probe into the incident. Datuk Mohd Khalil said state police would be working with their Singapore counterparts to track down the man, New Straits Times (NST) newspaper quoted him as saying.
The missing suspect, a businessman, was believed to be one of the owners of a factory which was involved in dumping toxic waste into the river, he said.
“We are tracking down the man and will be conducting further investigation in this case. We understand that three men, including a Singaporean, were charged in court today," he told a news conference on Sunday, as quoted by NST.
The Malaysian federal government and Johor state officials scrambled for some two weeks to clear chemicals from the river, which discharges into the Strait of Johor just north of Pulau Ubin.
Malaysian authorities said last Sunday that the clean-up of the 1.5km polluted stretch of the river was complete, with 1,250 tonnes of soil, water and sludge removed.
The government shut 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang area to prevent more students from falling sick and becoming hospitalised after inhaling fumes from the chemicals. Many residents who live around the river also fled at the height of concerns over toxic gases wafting into their homes.
Malaysian authorities and the media also highlighted other cases of suspected chemical dumping in several other Johor rivers.
Singapore authorities closely monitored the chemical spill and issued regular press releases to inform the public that the Republic has not been affected by the incident.
"Singapore’s air and water quality, as well as our water supply, continue to remain unaffected" by the incident, said a joint statement last Friday from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, the National Environment Agency, PUB – Singapore’s National Water Agency, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
The agencies said they will not issue any further daily updates unless there are major developments.
The PUB said last Sunday that it has been closely monitoring water quality along the Johor River and Singapore waterways and reservoirs.
“PUB assesses that the incident has no impact on our water supply, as the chemical spill location is outside of the Johor River catchment area, where part of our water supply comes from. The water quality of our inland waterways and reservoirs in north and north-eastern Singapore is also unaffected,” the statement said.