Black water hazard

This polluted water from the retention pond flows into Sungai Langat, contaminating another river in Selangor.

Contamination of Sungai Langat in Banting is threatening the state’s water supply, just as Selangor puts the recent water disruption caused by odour pollution in Sungai Gong behind it.

This follows the discovery of septic and chemical waste being discharged into a water retention pond in Kampung Sungai Manggis, located some 150m from the river.

A check by StarMetro revealed that the water there had turned black, emitting a stench.

Dead fish floated on the pond’s surface while aquatic plants had wilted, as dirty water flowed into Sungai Langat through an underground culvert.

This area is about 500m from the Kuala Langat Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) office.

Locals claim a nearby factory’s workers’ hostel was responsible for the foul discharge at the pond.

A raid by the authorities last month revealed that the hostel was behind the contamination of a stream near the Taman Bakti housing area here.

Resident Mohd Ali Hasan Ibrahim, 42, said locals had been on the lookout for any further contamination following the pollution of the stream near their homes.

“The discharge into the stream stopped after residents made complaints, but we are worried that they may release the waste into another water body,” explained Mohd Ali, who is Masjid Ar-Rahman committee secretary.

Kuala Langat Environmental Action Organisation (PTASKL) chairman Tan Ching Heng said he had gone to check on the pond with Mohd Ali and a few other locals.

“We went around 10pm and noticed a huge increase in liquid flow at the culvert.

“Perhaps those responsible thought they could hide their activity by discharging the waste at night.

“We are worried that the continuous flow of polluted water into Sungai Langat will affect the freshwater shrimps that have made their habitat here,” he said.

PTASKL secretary Pua Lay Peng said the turbulence at the culvert could be an indication that there was an underground pipe discharging waste into the pond.

She urged Kuala Langat Municipal Council (MPKL) and the Department of Environment (DOE) to investigate the matter soon to prevent further release of harmful substances into the river.

“The discharge will cause the level of dissolved oxygen in the river to drop, eventually devastating the aquatic ecosystem and food chain,” she said.

She added that two samples were taken and sent to a laboratory in Shah Alam for analysis.

“One sample was taken at the pond and the other near the culvert’s inlet.

“We should get the results within seven to 10 working days,” she said.

When contacted, MPKL corporate communications officer Mohammad Kamal Mohd Ramlan said DID had requested for the retention pond to be built.

“The request was made during the application for planning approval of nearby industrial and housing developments.

“If there is an overflow at the pond, excess water will be diverted into Sungat Langat,” he said.

Currently, water from Sungai Langat is channelled to some 30,000 account holders in the municipality through the Labohan Dagang water treatment plant, which began operation in November last year.

However, the number of accounts is expected to quadruple by 2022 when works to instal main pipes are completed by Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd.

Separately, the dispute between locals and the authorities over the minimum distance required between a nearby factory and the Taman Bakti housing area continues.

In a StarMetro report on Aug 31, Selangor DOE was quoted as saying that the minimum distance between heavy industry and a settlement was decided based on the local plan issued by the local authority.

The Kuala Langat Local Plan 2030, gazetted on July 5, 2018, states that heavy industries should be sited 500m from settlements, with 70% green buffer.

A measurement by residents found that the factory was located only 40m away from their housing area.

However, Banting assemblyman Lau Weng San, in a statement to StarMetro, said the Selangor State Manual Guideline and Planning Standard, issued in 2016 by the State Urban and Village Planning Department, stated that the minimum distance was 300m with a 20m-wide green buffer.

It is unclear which guideline takes precedence.

An investigation by DOE was ordered by Environment Minister Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man on Sept 1.

Department director-general Norlin Jaafar, when contacted, said the matter was being looked into, but did not respond to further requests for details.

Meanwhile, in response to locals’ complaints about noise and odour from the factory, Lau said a meeting with factory representatives on July 26 had clarified the matter.

“The factory admitted that the odour was caused by discharge from the workers’ hostel and not from its operation, while the noise was caused by the unloading of machineries from freight containers.

“The factory said it had yet to commence operations and was still going through various phases of construction and approvals from the authorities,” he said, adding that DOE and the Occupational Safety and Health Department also had jurisdiction.

“The local councils rely on other authorities to vet applications for planning approvals and they will process any application with full transparency, subject to legal provisions,” he said.

Lau denied that locals were uninformed about the factory’s development as their concerns were recorded during the meeting.

He added that the factory was on a campaign to employ locals and he supported “the need to balance economic development with environmental protection”.

PTASKL however, disagreed with him and urged the state government to give more weight to environmental concerns.

“The state government must not leave environmental issues to the people and wait until disasters happen,” said Pua.

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