Parliament: Singapore's air, water and food unaffected by fires, chemical spill in Johor, says Amy Khor

Emergency personnel in protective suits cleaning up Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, Johor, on March 14, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's air and water quality, as well as its water and food supplies, has not been significantly affected by recent fires and the chemical spill in Johor last month.

Residents in the north and north-eastern regions of Singapore complained about a burning smell after hot spots were detected in the southern Malaysian state between early February and mid-March - the result of fires in two landfills and near an oil palm plantation.

Despite this, Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA) found that the ambient air quality measured by the Pollutant Standards Index remained in the good to moderate range during this period, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources and Health Amy Khor told Parliament on Monday (April 1).

"There is no direct correlation or association between the smells and the ambient air quality readings," she said.

She was responding to questions from MPs about the recent incidents in Johor.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked whether there were any long-term health effects for the residents who complained about the smells.

Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked whether pollution levels had increased following the dumping of toxic chemicals last month into Sungai Kim Kim, a river in Pasir Gudang, in Johor.

PM2.5 levels, which reflect the concentration of fine particulate matter in the air, remained normal and the NEA did not detect elevated levels of volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene and xylene in the air, Dr Khor said.

The agency also did not detect water quality abnormalities in the Strait of Johor, near Pulau Ubin, or at Singapore's recreational beaches.

"This incident has no impact on our water supply as the chemical dumping location is outside of our Johor River catchment area, where part of our water supply comes from," she said.

Dr Khor also said fish farms in the Johor Strait did not report unusual fish deaths, and that the Singapore Food Agency's tests for pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals in seafood samples from the farms did not find any anomalies.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates if there are any significant developments. We will also continue to step up our checks and enforcement to protect our environment and safeguard the health and safety of Singaporeans."

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