GEORGE TOWN: The state government must set up an emergency task force to address the heavy metal pollution in the sea off Tanjung Bungah and Penang National Park in Teluk Bahang, said Tanjung Bungah Residents’ Association chairman Meena Raman (pic).
She said the association echoed the concerns raised by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies (Cemacs) after high levels of heavy metals were found in the waters.
“We hope the state government will form an emergency task force and include all relevant authorities to address the source of the heavy metal pollution.
“Necessary measures must be taken to stop the pollution, including alerting and warning the public about the dangers of swimming in such polluted waters,” she said in a statement yesterday.
The Star yesterday reported that heavy metal nickel, 944% higher than natural, was found in the sea off Penang National Park in Teluk Bahang.
The pollutant is believed to have spread and caused the sea off Tanjung Bungah, not far from Penang Swimming Club, to record a dissolved oxygen level of 0.08mg/L – which is too low to support marine life.
“We have locals and tourists swimming in the sea off the north coast of Teluk Bahang and Tanjung Bungah and they may not be aware of the dangers,” Meena said.
She said the association would send an official letter to urge the state to look into the issue as it would affect local residents, tourists and fishermen.
“The federal and state authorities must take urgent measures to stop the pollution and protect public health while avoiding the destruction of marine life.
“We are also alarmed and concerned over the findings of high levels of pollutants, and the impact on the community as we did not know about this until we read about it in The Star,” she said.
Cemacs director Professor Datuk Dr Aileen Tan said the nickel concentrations could not naturally be that high after Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Chemistry Department found nickel in the waters off Teluk Bahang at 0.472 parts per million (ppm), 944% more than the standard 0.005ppm in typical sea water.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, some nickel compounds are carcinogenic to humans, meaning it has the potential to cause cancer.