Singapore— The Public Utilities Board (PUB) announced on April 4, Thursday, that the Johor River Waterworks stopped treatment operations because of high levels of ammonia in the river, disrupting the country’s water supply. However, this has not affected the actual supply of water to the country, since PUB resorted to alternative sources to remedy the situation.
According to a spokesman for the PUB, “PUB’s waterworks in Johor, the Johor River Waterworks (JRWW), has stopped treatment operations this afternoon due to high ammonia levels found in the Johor River.
The halting of treatment operations at JRWW disrupted its water supply to Singapore and some parts of Johor. Water supply in Singapore is not affected as the PUB has stepped up production at the desalination plants and local waterworks to meet demand.
PUB is monitoring the raw water quality in Johor River closely and will resume abstraction and treatment of raw water when water quality is suitable.
According to Star Online, a high level of ammonia pollution was found in Sungai Sayong, which supplies water into the Johor River. This was due to an incident in a reservoir at a bio-composite centre next to an oil palm refinery in Sedenak, said Johor International Trade, Investment and Utility Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse.
The reservoir apparently burst, which caused water that was already polluted with ammonia to flow into Sungai Sayong, affecting the supply of water to around 17,000 homes in Kulai, the only nearby area affected by the incident.
Mr Puah announced that this happened at around seven o’clock on April 3 (Wednesday).
He said, “At around 6.30pm, both the Sayong 1 and Sayong 2 water treatment plants, had to be shut down as it could not process the raw water due to high levels of ammonia.”
Because of this, by Thursday morning, the water treatment plants at Semanggar and Sungai Johor had to stop operations. Additionally, the Tai Hong water treatment plant was also shut down for the time being.
Mr Puah said that action has already been taken against the oil palm refinery. Its raw water abstraction licence has been cancelled, and a compound notice was served after the reservoir burst.
“The Johor government will not compromise over the incident and the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) has cancelled its water abstraction licence with immediate effect.”
Furthermore, Mr Puah said that Kulai should have had its water supply restored by ten o’clock on the night of April 4.
Last month, the Sungai Benut river in Johor was also seriously affected by ammonia pollution, which caused a reduction in the water supply, with more than 75,000 residents affected. The water treatment plant in the area was shut down on March 23.
Maszlee Malik, Malaysia’s Education Minister and Simpang Renggam Member of Parliament, attributed the reduction of drinking water to thousands of households to the closure of the water treatment plant.
He said, “We believe there are irresponsible people taking the opportunity to release ammonia into this river. At the same time, we hope that action will be taken against the affected parties and the landfill in Ulu Sungai Benut is closed immediately.”
The landfill in Ulu Sungai Benut is one of the sources of the ammonia.
The pollution was exacerbated due to the breaking of a bund that surrounds the CEP Renggam landfill. This caused leachate to be absorbed into the ground. Leachate comes from landfills and has a high concentration of ammonia, as well as heavy metals. Leachate is the liquid that drains or “leaches” from a landfill and can affect both groundwater and surface water.
One of the main concerns in the matter is that the ammonia may remain in the water source for a long time, as addressing leaching problems may be quite challenging, unlike the hazardous waste barrels that were relatively easily removed from Sungai Kim Kim.
On March 7, around 6,000 people were affected by the illegal toxic chemical dumping in Sungai Kim Kim. But the situation had reached a crisis since many were poisoned by the fumes from Sungai Kim Kim. Several were hospitalized, with people in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) of local hospitals, including some medical staff who responded to the emergency.
Additionally, all 111 schools in the area were temporarily shut down. Fortunately, there were no fatalities from the poisoning.
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