Chemical stench

Agencies could have done more to assure public

Mr Gary Kaw put a rather positive spin on the actions of the National Environment Agency and Singapore Civil Defence Force after an acrid smell was detected on Sept 25 (Chemical stench: Agencies did their part well; Oct 3).

However, he seems to have missed the point of my letter (Poor show by authorities over mystery smell; Sept 27) and Mr Adrian Soh Mun Wai's letter (Worrying that the authorities cannot explain mystery smell; Sept 29).

The report on Sept 26 (S'poreans baffled by strong, mystery smell) did not mention what, if any, further action would be taken, leaving The Straits Times, among other media sources, to speculate as to the origin of the pollution.

Merely telling the public that no toxic elements or volatile organic compounds were found, and that the air quality was within safety standards was not enough to allay the concerns of the public. It just left the public, who were noticing and being affected by something, wondering.

The agencies could have said more and sooner, rather than days after the incident.

For instance, they could have acknowledged that there was a strong smell in several areas, said that field equipment was unable to determine the pollutant on the spot, assured the public that samples were being taken for further analysis, and announced that they would be contacting their counterparts in Johor.

To date, no information has been released on what the offending pollutant was.

It is hard to accept that the authorities deserve praise instead of criticism under the circumstances.

Chia Ping Kheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline 'Agencies could have done more to assure public'. Print Edition | Subscribe