Thousands in Johor affected by water supply cut due to ammonia pollution at Sungai Benut river

KLUANG -A water treatment plant in the Malaysian state of Johor has been temporarily closed since last Saturday (March 23) due to ammonia pollution at the Sungai Benut river, cutting water supply to about 75,000 consumers.

Simpang Renggam Member of Parliament and Education Minister Maszlee Malik said on Monday (March 25) the supply cut was due to the closure of the water treatment plant in Simpang Renggam in Kluang.

Consumers of SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd, which provides water supply services in Johor, in Simpang Renggam, Ayer Hitam, Kulai and a part of Pontian district, have been affected by the suspension, Bernama news agency reported.

"We believe there are irresponsible people taking the opportunity to release ammonia into this river. At the same time we are urging SAJ Ranhill to provide water through its tankers to consumers in the affected areas," Dr Maszlee was quoted saying.

He said the pollution had also been made worse because a bund surrounding the CEP Renggam landfill nearby had broken, causing leachate to be absorbed into the ground.

Leachate from landfills are known to contain high levels of ammonia and heavy metals that can contaminate surface water and groundwater.

"At the same time, we hope that action will be taken against the affected parties and the landfill in Ulu Sungai Benut (which is one of the causes of the problem) is closed immediately," he added.

The Johor Department of Environment is investigating the pollution and samples from the river have been sent to the Chemistry Department for analysis, Bernama reported.

Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar had on Monday voiced concern about pollution in Sungai Ulu Benut and the Sungai Machap river in Simpang Renggam, ordering the state's authorities to investigate.

His statement came after thousands of people, including children, in Pasir Gudang were affected by chemical waste dumped into Sungai Kim Kim earlier this month, forcing the government to close 111 schools in the area.

Two directors and a lorry driver were charged in the Sessions Court on Sunday with being involved in the dumping of chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim.

The three accused are Singaporean Wang Jin Chao, 34, and Malaysians Yap Yoke Liang, 36, and N. Maridass, 35, the lorry driver.

The trio have pleaded not guilty.