S$4m system to monitor Singapore’s coastal waters

New Neptune system will let authorities respond quickly to pollution incidents, track where they originated
Kelly Ng Today Online 23 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE — A new water-monitoring system that allows for real-time monitoring of the waters around Singapore has been launched, so that the authorities can respond more quickly to water pollution incidents and potential pollution hotspots.

With the new system, called Neptune, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will also be able to send out alerts of chemical spills and algae blooms to the public through its mobile application myENV by the end of this year, so that the public would know which spots to avoid for recreational activities like swimming.

In 2008, the NEA found the waters at Pasir Ris beach unsuitable for swimming in, as the bacteria count of enterococcus, which is found in human faeces, was too high. The beach was declared safe for swimming last year.

The NEA said Neptune would allow for earlier alerts and more “timely” responses to such incidents.

“With Neptune, we will have better capabilities to backtrack and see where the pollution originated,” said a spokesperson for the NEA.

The S$4-million system was jointly developed by the NEA and Singapore Delft Water Alliance.

Comprising eight solar-powered buoy-based stations, the final buoy was deployed yesterday at Cyrene, an offshore reef.

Speaking at the deployment, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan called this a “critical” development, given that Singapore is one of the busiest ports in the world.

“We want to maintain a safe, high-quality (maritime) environment ... (Real-time data will) allow us to anticipate problems or the evolution of a problem even as it occurs.

“This is also a symbol of our commitment to make sure that environment data is transparent and available to all stakeholders,” Dr Balakrishnan added.

Each buoy tracks and sends live updates of the ocean conditions to an operational management system located on mainland Singapore for processing.

Parameters measured include pH, algal nutrients and concentration of dissolved oxygen.

They each weigh about 1,000kg and are fitted with Global Positioning Systems and anti-theft alarms.

All eight buoys were deployed over this month. A test will be carried out in the next year for necessary modifications to be made.

Neptune will complement the NEA’s current manual water monitoring programme, in which officers collect water samples from six designated locations and analyse them in laboratories.

New coastal water quality monitoring system launched
Seet Sok Hwee, Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 22 Mar 13;

SINGAPORE: A new system to monitor the quality of Singapore's coastal waters was launched on Friday morning, in conjunction with World Water Day.

Eight stations which monitor the quality of Singapore's coastal waters continuously have been deployed in the Straits of Johor and the Straits of Singapore. The system is named Neptune.

Each station is about four metres high and weighs about 1,000 kilogrammes. The stations run on solar power.

Vivian Balakrishnan, minister for environment and water resources, said: "It's the first in the world, where we're not just monitoring a bay or a pond, but islandwide. They'll provide us real-time data which will allow us to keep very close tabs on any emerging pollutants, or any other changes in the seas and waters around us, as well as to keep track of any land-based pollutants which might spill over into the sea.

"This is a significant development for NEA (National Environment Agency) and for Singapore. It's also a symbol of our commitment to make sure that environmental data is transparent, is made available to all stakeholders. We will do our best to make sure everyone plays their part to protect our seas and the waters and the environment."

The system cost the NEA some S$4 million.

- CNA/xq

Buoy oh buoy, there's an oil spill coming in
Grace Chua Straits Times 23 Mar 13;

One of the eight buoys being deployed off Cyrene Reef, near Jurong Island. Each buoy acts as its own chemistry lab, testing coastal waters for pollutants and sending continuous real-time updates wirelessly to the National Environment Agency. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

SHOULD an oil spill occur off Singapore, the public can now get an earlier warning on when and where it will first hit.

All thanks to a network of eight specially outfitted buoys along the coastline, the last of which was installed yesterday.

It is part of a $4 million ocean-monitoring system called Neptune, named after the Roman god of the sea.

Each buoy acts as its own chemistry lab, testing coastal waters for pollutants and sending continuous real-time updates wirelessly to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The data is integrated into a computer model, developed in collaboration with the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, that simulates how tides and currents flow and shift with the weather.

This gives the NEA early warnings of oil and chemical spills, allowing it to trace the source of pollutants. It will also help the agency predict the impact of future developments on water quality.

And by about the end of this year, the public will be able to use some of that data, by checking NEA's MyENV mobile app, to see what the water quality is like at the beach.

The coastal necklace of buoys will complement a more traditional existing method: NEA officers going out on a boat to take weekly or monthly water samples.

The system will be fine-tuned for a year and be fully operational by April next year, and more buoys could be added if they are needed.

Over the past two weeks, the 4m-tall, 1-tonne buoys had been deployed one by one from Changi to Tuas.

As the sun came up yesterday morning, the final buoy was anchored off Cyrene Reef near Jurong Island.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who viewed the launch, said the system will help in crisis management.

"Let's take the example of an oil spill," he explained. "We want to be able to predict how extensive it will be, where it will make landfall, the deployment of our resources to do the cleanup. All that will depend on the fact that we've got realtime data to guide us..."

In May 2010, an oil spill occurred off Changi East, and agencies had to rely on satellite images that were often obscured by clouds to work out where the spill was headed.

Added NEA chief executive Andrew Tan: "What you cannot monitor, what you cannot track - you cannot deal with."