PETALING JAYA: The Ayer Ganda water treatment plant has traces of arsenic at more than 0.02 milligram per litre, says the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).
This is much higher than the permissible 0.01 milligram per litre level set by the Health Ministry
The ministry’s National Drinking Water Standards set an arsenic maximum contaminant level at 0.01mg/L but a recent report by the Perak Water Board (LAP) recorded an arsenic level of 0.027mg/L at the water treatment plant in Gerik
Another report by the Health Ministry recorded an arsenic level of 0.024mg/L at the same plant, which was ordered to shut down indefinitely by SPAN on April 9.
SPAN chairman Charles Santiago said there had since been objections from certain quarters who wanted the plant to remain open, saying that the contamination level was safe.
“All we want to say is it is not true and we can only take the word of the Health Ministry as the basis of our decisions. Nothing else.
“There are people, for reasons only known to them, who want the plant to remain open. But we are guided by the Water Services Industry Act and what the Health Ministry tells us,” said Santiago when contacted Wednesday (April 17).
He stressed that the plant would remain closed until there was a letter by the Health Ministry verifying that the water was safe to be consumed and that there was no more arsenic poisoning.
“People are complaining of skin problems. It would be irresponsible to open the plant and allow the water to be consumed. This decision was made to protect the people’s interests. This involves the people’s health and there shouldn’t be a compromise,” he said.
Santiago added that the Health Ministry is also probing complaints by residents suffering from skin problems, which are among the possible results of long-term exposure to arsenic.
According to the Health Ministry, arsenic is categorised as a group G1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Arsenic ingestion, which can occur through long-term exposure to the substance or ingesting water that has been poisoned with arsenic, can result in skin wounds, hyperkeratosis and also chronic diseases such as cancer of the skin, kidney, bladder and lungs.
Separately, according to a SPAN in a statement Wednesday (April 17), there are no plans by the Commission to re-operate the Ayer Ganda water treatment plant.
It had a capacity of 0.68 million litres per day and used to supply water to about 312 user accounts in Kampung Ayer Ganda.
Since the Ayer Ganda water treatment plant was shut down, LAP has since been supplying water to residents in affected areas using nine tank lorries and also 13 static water tanks placed at strategic locations.
“SPAN will request LAP to increase the number of tank lorries and static tanks in order to alleviate the residents’ burden as they were affected by water disruption.
“As a long-term measure, LAP has also started installing pipes from the Lawin water treatment plant to supply water to Kampung Ayer Ganda.
“The work to install this 11.5km pipe is expected to be done by the middle of June,” said SPAN.