PETALING JAYA: An unsystematic cleaning practice by a heavy machinery workshop could be the reason why more than a million households in the Klang Valley suffered a major water cut.
Selangor Department of Environment (DOE) director Nor Aziah Jaafar said further investigations were carried out on the premises to determine why it had broken the rules for the second time after it was fined RM60,000 in March for polluting the river.
“We conducted investigations on Thursday after it was discovered that the workshop also washes heavy machinery at its premises and its floors were also oily.
“This unsystematic cleaning activity could have caused water mixed with solvents and oil to be washed straight into Sungai Gong, ” she said when contacted.
She said the workshop was fined in March for 30 offences under the Environmental Quality (Scheduled Waste) Regulations 2005 and had carried out improvement works after it was penalised.
“DOE later conducted checks on the premises and it was found that they had complied with our instructions, ” she said.
DOE is investigating the latest incident for violating the restrictions on soil pollution under Section 24 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which carries a fine of not more than RM100,000 or a jail term of not more than five years, upon conviction.
She said that the premises’ permission to operate came under the jurisdiction of local authorities through the issuance of business licences.
Separately, environmentalists were concerned and angry that the workshop was a repeat offender and called for heavier penalties to avoid it from committing the offence again.
Klima Action Malaysia chairman Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar said it was time for the Environmental Quality Act 1974 to be updated to include stiffer penalties.
“The maximum fine is RM500,000 but we must understand that law was drafted, tabled and passed in 1974 when many economic sectors were in their infancy.
“We need amendments and environmental reforms that incorporate evidence-based decision making, enshrined upon the precautionary principle, ” she said.
Organisation for the Preservation of National Heritage Malaysia (Peka) president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil echoed her views, saying that a repeat offender is proof that the penalties may be too light to deter the offence.
“Penalties for repeated offenders should be 10 times the original sum with a jail term thrown in, ” she said.
Dr K. Kalithasan, River Care programme manager under the Global Environmental Centre, said offenders should also be tasked to fund the clean-up efforts when they are found guilty of pollution.
He said river pollution should be viewed as a disaster and the National Security Council should be involved in managing the crisis.
“Polluted water sources should be treated as a national security issue because this is about preserving and maintaining a sustainable source of raw potable water supply.
“The lack of water can affect lives especially now when we ourselves rely on clean water to keep Covid-19 at bay.”
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