THEY have continued with their business of boiling tyres despite protests from neighbours.
The act - pyrolysis - to extract low grade industrial oil also releases cancer-causing toxic fumes like dioxin and furan, which has been a cause of concern in Perak recently.
According to neighbours, the factory along Jalan Pelabuhan 12 in Lumut Port Industrial Park in Kg Acheh, Sitiawan, would operate their boilers in the late evenings in a bid to avoid detection.
But they soon found themselves in the headlines when the boilers caught fire on a Sunday morning!
On Feb 1, the Fire and Rescue Department rushed to the scene to put out the fire.
While no one was reported hurt in the blaze, the incident revealed many questions on how such a toxic industry has been allowed to continue despite public protests.
This is one big question the authorities concerned owe the people a sensible answer.
In fact, it is absurd to give the operators three months’ grace period to update their operations to meet the safety requirements after their harmful operations made headlines at the end of last year.
Everything was out in the open after residents, who have been suffering from the fumes in silence for some time, had resorted to airing their grievances to the media.
What were the authorities doing all this while where pyrolysis is concerned?
The Department of Environment, local authorities and state government seem to only have reasons for their inaction when dealing with this issue.
That’s not all.
Two days after the fire, Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon was reported saying that pyrolysis is the only proper disposal of used tyres as dumping them into the sea could only harm the marine ecosystem.
Unless he is misquoted by the media, Dr Mah, who is the state’s health committee chairman, has to convince the people the rationale of his statement.
Until he and the authorities can convince the people that the pyrolysis operations in the state have met the health and environment safety standards at all times, I am sorry to say his excuse to allow pyrolysis to continue to protect the marine ecosystem is just unacceptable.
And it is certainly not a question of choosing between pyrolysis and protecting the marine ecosystem.
It will be interesting to know how Malaysia and the world have been disposing used tyres all this while.
There has been little information on this topic thus far.
I must admit that pyrolysis only became part of my vocabulary end of last year when the residents went to the media.
According to sources, pyrolysis was a very harmful process if it did not meet stringent health and environmental safety procedures.
Such procedures, he added, were very costly to operate.
The source said this was one reason why China had banned pyrolysis that did not meet such procedures almost 20 years ago.
So, what sort of procedures are in place by the Perak authorities for its pyrolysis operators once the grace period expires on Feb 21?
Dr Mah should enlighten the people on this matter, instead of telling the operators to join the Persatuan Pyrolysis Minyak Perak for constant updates on regulations and environmental safety.
To begin with, what is the jurisdiction of an association when dealing with such a serious health and environmental issue?
The association chairman Datuk Chah Kok Hua has claimed that 10 factories under the association were already using equipment from China to conduct pyrolysis according to standards while another 15 are in the upgrading process.
Chah even said it was its (the association’s) job to ensure all factories do not emit toxic fumes or stench during operations that would put nearby residents at risk.
He even warned that if the operators were found to have disregarded the rules set by the authorities, the association will shut them down immediately.
Again, I am not sure whether Chah knows the jurisdiction of his association before he made the pledges.
Anyway, I suppose the people will want to hear what the authorities concerned have to say once the Feb 21 deadline comes around.