38 companies, including BreadTalk, punished for illegal discharge into public sewers

BreadTalk was prosecuted for discharging, on multiple occasions, trade effluent containing regulated chemicals exceeding allowable concentration limits into the public sewer in June 2016 and April 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - National water agency PUB has prosecuted 38 companies, including bakery and food manufacturing company BreadTalk, in the last year for illegally dumping waste water containing chemicals or other materials into public sewers.

Among these companies, 18 were repeat offenders and given harsher penalties, the agency said in a statement on Monday (June 10).

Of the repeat offenders, BreadTalk and Tat Seng Packaging Group, a printing and packaging manufacturer, got the highest fines of $16,300 and $14,100 respectively.

The offences by the various companies over the illegal discharge of trade effluent, or liquid waste created by businesses, were discovered during site inspections as well as PUB's surveillance of the public sewerage system, the agency said.

The companies were prosecuted from June 2018 to May this year and fined a total of $253,700. They include NSL Oilchem Logistics, KMS Industrial and Metal Treatment Technology.

PUB said that trade effluent illegally discharged into public sewers pose significant risks to public health and the environment.

The offences by the 38 companies range from discharging waste containing regulated metals or chemical substances exceeding allowable limits, to more serious offences like discharging waste containing dangerous substances or volatile organic compounds.

These acts can cause fires in the sewers and may threaten PUB's treatment of used water, the agency added.

BreadTalk was prosecuted for discharging, on multiple occasions, waste water containing regulated substances exceeding allowable concentration limits into the public sewer in June 2016 and April 2017.

The waste water it discharged illegally contained substances such as grease and non-hydrocarbon oil, which were uncovered after samples were tested from the company's waste water pre-treatment plant.

PUB added that Breadtalk had six previous charges from three occasions in 2014 - on June 4, Oct 1 and Nov 27 - and was fined $19,000 over them. One charge was taken into consideration in the company's latest cases.

BreadTalk declined to comment when contacted by The Straits Times.

Tat Seng Packaging Group was taken to task for discharging regulated substances, such as copper and boron, that exceeded the allowable limit in June 2016, December 2017 and March 2018. The company had three prior charges committed during September to October 2016 and was fined $12,000 over them.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Tat Seng Packaging Group directed ST to its Annual Report 2018 released on April 10.

The report said that after acquiring advanced wastewater treatment equipment, additional measures were implemented in order to comply with regulatory requirements.

"We will continue to work towards further enhancing our industrial used water management practices," said the company.

On the repeat offenders flagged, Mr Maurice Neo, PUB's director of water reclamation network, said: "(They) have been placed under PUB's surveillance watch, where we are monitoring their trade effluent discharge closely and will step up the frequency of inspections at their premises.

"In severe cases, PUB may also suspend or revoke the approval for the company to discharge trade effluent in the sewer."

PUB said that companies must obtain written approval from PUB before discharging trade effluent containing regulated metal substances and chemical compounds into public sewers.

Companies must also ensure that the discharge complies within PUB's allowed limits.

Industrial used water containing volatile organic compounds is prohibited from being discharged into public sewers.

Under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, illegally discharging trade effluent containing dangerous or hazardous substances into the public sewer carries a fine of up to $50,000 for the first offence and a maximum fine of $100,000 for repeat offenders.

Other companies have got into trouble with the law for water pollution-related offences.

In February, the National Environment Agency (NEA) and PUB said that enforcement action by NEA would be taken against contractor UGL (Singapore) over its illegal discharge that polluted a Potong Pasir outlet drain.

Additional reporting by Goh Yan Han

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