Consumers up in arms over water disruption

PETALING JAYA: Dry taps greeted disappointed residents in seven Klang Valley districts following the shutdown of four water treatment plants due to odour pollution in Sungai Selangor.

Marketing executive Rachel Lee, 25, said the unexpected water disconnection was a huge inconvenience for her household of four, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are trying to eat in and stay at home more because of the pandemic but depending on how long the water cut lasts this time, we now have to do takeaways or dine out, ” said Lee, who resides in Setapak.

She is concerned that with the water cuts affecting so many areas, there is a possibility that some eateries they usually buy food from would resort to reusing water.

“It feels like we are facing a never-ending cycle of water cuts. It is a disruption to our daily lives and routine, ” said Lee.

Housewife Amalina Tajuddin, 32, who is currently undergoing confinement at home after giving birth to her first child two weeks ago, is deeply disappointed with the sudden disruption.

“How am I supposed to give my baby a bath? Am I supposed to use rainwater?

“I didn’t store any water at home and we also have no idea when the supply will be back to normal, ” she said.

“We always hear of odour pollution being detected in our rivers, disrupting water supply to consumers.

“How come the authorities didn’t take sterner action to deter criminals from committing such offences?” added the Gombak resident.

In a statement earlier, Air Selangor said 1,292 areas in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling, Klang/Shah Alam, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor, Gombak and Kuala Langat were affected by the unscheduled water cuts yesterday.

Odour pollution detected in the raw water source for Sungai Selangor had caused the Sungai Selangor Water Treatment Plants Phase 1,2 and 3 and the Rantau Panjang Water Treatment Plant to be shut down.

Lembaga Urus Air Selangor (Luas) later said that an unidentified solvent is believed to be the source of the odour.

Air Selangor said investigations were underway with several agencies, including Luas, to determine the nature and source of the pollution.

“Odour sampling is being conducted near suspected industrial premises near Sungai Gong, which is believed to have released the odour that smells like a solvent, ” it said in a statement.

Sungai Gong is a tributary of Sungai Sembah, which is the main tributary of Sungai Selangor located about 17km from the Rantau Panjang Water Treatment Plant.

Air Selangor said Luas had begun pumping 400 million litres of water from the Bestari Jaya pond and 500 million litres from the Sungai Tinggi Dam while opening the Bestari Jaya river gate to help overcome the odour.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran said it was time that polluters were treated in the same category as terrorists for they were endangering the lives of many citizens.

He said as the water cuts were occurring during the pandemic when it was highly needed for hygienic purposes, people were at risk.

“We are still in the recovery movement control order and with the water cuts affecting so many areas, how are we going to maintain cleanliness at restaurants and workplaces for example?

“We don’t want a water crisis cluster so it is high time to up the stakes and treat the polluters as the same category as terrorists, ” he said.

He said existing laws should be amended to give consumers the power to recover losses incurred by unexpected water supply disruptions as offenders did not seem to be deterred by the current penalties.

Malaysian Water Forum president Saral James Maniam said hefty fines and jail sentence should be imposed on the polluters and information such as the company’s name and its chief executive officer should be published in local newspapers.

She pointed out that odour pollution at raw water sources had been happening often, with previous occurrences in December 2019, in March and April this year and now again in September.

“We strongly believe that the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) should conduct studies on activities along the rivers to identify the causes of such incidents and elect Young Water Warriors to work with the authorities to be in charge of parts of the rivers.

“These Young Water Warriors from the communities living along the rivers should be rewarded for every case highlighted to the authorities, ” said Saral.

She added that responsibilities among different authorities should also be shared to carry out water pollution prevention and treatment activities efficiently.

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