BUKIT MERTAJAM: The sawdust pits were still burning at the illegal carbon filter-processing factory in Sungai Lembu here as authorities moved in to shut it down.
A six-member Department of Environment (DoE) team went to the factory yesterday and found 31 burning pits.
According to a DoE officer who declined to be named, a closure notice can only be issued after the factory has ceased operations.
After surveying the site and speaking to two workers, the officers alerted the Fire and Rescue Department to help douse the burning pits.
Led by Bukit Mertajam Fire Department chief Mohd Fauzi Suid, 12 firemen were dispatched to the site with a water tanker from the Prai station.
“We arrived at 1.25pm. The place was without any water supply and this hampered our efforts to put out the fire in the 31 pits.
“Our trucks had to be driven out to be refilled with water. By 4.10pm, we managed to bring the fires under control and advised the DoE to let the remaining sawdust in the pits burn itself out,” he told reporters at the scene.
Mohd Fauzi said the fires are expected to burn out by tomorrow. Then, DoE can move in to seal off the factory.
The illegal factory is at the centre of a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation that saw state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh being arrested on Friday.
Also arrested were factory director Edmund Gan Eu Leong, 37, and his father Gan Buck Hee, 70, the factory manager.
Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Datuk Rozali Mohamud could not be reached for comment.
He also did not turn up at a town hall session for the Bukit Mertajam rehabilitation effort at which he was scheduled to be present.
The council’s Licensing Department director, Mohd Faidrol Radzi, was seen at the factory before the DoE officers arrived.
He said he was only there to check things and declined to comment further.
Environmental health expert Prof Dr Jamal Hisham Hashim said the production of carbon had some similarities to making coal.
Prof Jamal, a United Nations University research fellow, said that sometimes, sawdust was slowly burned in a furnace to produce carbon.
“Because combustion is incomplete, the smoke emitted will contain respirable particulate matter that is harmful to people with asthma, breathing problems or heart problems.”
Prof Jamal said the smoke could also contain carcinogens.
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