Asbestos plague spreads to Pulau Ubin

Audrey Tan Straits Times 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - The asbestos "plague" has spread to Pulau Ubin, with debris containing the potentially toxic mineral cropping up at the island off the Republic's eastern coast.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the island, said on Tuesday (June 5) that "small pieces of debris containing asbestos were found at four isolated locations on the island and have been removed".

It did not elaborate on where exactly the debris was found.

This is the latest development in the spread of asbestos, which has since April been found at a number of places in the Southern Islands. On May 19, NParks said it was surveying Pulau Ubin to determine if asbestos could be found there.

In its statement on Tuesday, however, NParks did not say when the mineral was discovered. But its discovery on Pulau Ubin shows that it is not just the islands south of Singapore that have been affected.

Asbestos containing debris has also been found on Sisters' Islands Marine Park, Pulau Hantu, St John's Island and Kusu Island - islands popular among day-trippers who visit the southern islands for their nature, scenic views of the Singapore Strait, or to worship at the temple or shrine located on Kusu.

NParks said the debris containing asbestos on Big Sister's Island, found washed ashore last month, has since been removed. Works to remove the debris in other areas are ongoing.

The two long-term residents on St John's Island have moved back to the mainland, but it is not immediately clear whether the Pulau Ubin villagers have had to move back either.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once a popular component in construction materials. Due to its links to health problems such as lung cancer, its use in buildings was banned in Singapore in 1989, but many earlier structures still contain the substance.

Structures containing asbestos pose no risk to humans if they are intact. However, when there is damage or disturbance - such as sawing and cutting - fibres may be released into the air and inhaled.

Even though the authorities have said repeatedly that short-term exposure to asbestos is not harmful, the repeated occurrence of the mineral has raised questions on how they came to the southern islands in the first place, and if they could have been dumped illegally by errant contractors.

Investigations are now ongoing to determine the source of the asbestos debris.

The collection and disposal of general and industrial waste from offshore islands is regulated by the National Environment Agency (NEA) under the Environmental Public Health Act and Environmental Public Health (General Waste Collection) Regulations.

NEA told The Straits Times that it requires waste to be collected by licensed general waste collectors for disposal at approved disposal facilities, namely the waste-to-energy incineration plants and Semakau Landfill.

"Owners and occupiers of premises are required to engage general waste collectors to collect their waste for proper disposal. For industrial waste that is toxic in nature, it has to be sent to toxic industrial waste treatment facilities."

It did not say how these requirements are enforced, but its spokesman added that the agency had in the past, taken enforcement actions against offenders for failure to comply with the requirement, although those cases did not involve offshore islands.

Big Sister’s Island and Pulau Ubin cleared of asbestos-laced debris: NParks
Today Online 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — The authorities have removed debris containing asbestos from Big Sister's Island and Pulau Ubin, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on Tuesday (June 5) as it declared Coney Island and Small Sister's Island to be free of the hazardous material.

In the latest official update on the discovery and removal of asbestos-laced debris from islands surrounding Singapore - first disclosed in April - NParks said some of such debris were found at four isolated areas in the lagoons on Big Sister's Island, which forms one half of Sisters' Island with Small Sister's Island.

Small pieces of debris containing asbestos were also found in "four isolated locations" in Pulau Ubin. The debris have been since been removed from both islands.

NParks gave no further details.

Asbestos is a potentially toxic mineral that could cause lung cancer and other illnesses if its fibres are inhaled over a prolonged period. It was once commonly used in building materials, but has since been banned in Singapore and other developed countries due to concerns about health risks.

The authorities announced the discovery of traces of asbestos on St John's Island and Kusu Island in late April and early May respectively. In the middle of May, two islands of Pulau Hantu were also discovered to contain asbestos.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced on April 23 that it was sealing off the recreational areas on St John's Island until the middle of next year following the discovery of debris containing asbestos.

In an update on May 4, the SLA said that it would conduct surveys for asbestos on other publicly accessible islands around Singapore, but declared Lazarus Island, Pulau Seringat and Kias Island to be free of the hazardous material thus far.

In their May 4 statement, the SLA added that it would be closing off the affected areas on Kusu Island - a lagoon and parts of the beach - until October this year for workers to remove the asbestos.

Popular sites like the Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) temple, wishing well, tortoise sanctuary, a temporary hawker centre and the jetty will remain open to the public as asbestos was not discovered there.

The daily ferry services to the island, about 5.6km south of Singapore, are unaffected as well, SLA added.

It did not disclose how much asbestos was discovered on Kusu Island, beyond saying the hazardous material was discovered in "pieces of debris".

On May 19, the SLA said it discovered asbestos on two islands of Pulau Hantu – Pulau Hantu Besar and Pulau Hantu Kechil.

As a precautionary measure, the authority closed off both islands and removal works will only be completed in early 2019.

Debris containing asbestos found on Pulau Ubin, hazardous material removed: NParks
Channel NewsAsia 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE: Small pieces of debris containing asbestos were found on Pulau Ubin, said the National Parks Board (NParks) on Tuesday (Jun 5), adding that the material has since been removed.

Asbestos has been found since April on some of Singapore’s southern islands, including Big Sister's Island, St John’s Island and Kusu Island.

The discovery on Pulau Ubin meant asbestos has also appeared on an island in the northern part of Singapore. The pieces of debris were found at “four isolated locations”, said NParks in a media release.

It also announced that debris containing asbestos has been removed from isolated areas in the lagoons on Big Sister’s Island, and declared Coney Island free from the hazardous mineral after completing surveys on the area.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral which was commonly used as a construction material in the past. The use of asbestos in building materials has been banned in Singapore since 1989 due to its links to health risks such as lung cancer.

When asbestos was found on Big Sister's Island in May, monthly guided walks there were suspended.

In April, the Singapore Land Authority cordoned off more than half of St John's Island as a precautionary measure, after samples taken from a campsite, lagoon and holiday bungalow area tested positive for asbestos.

Authorities have yet to determine the source of the debris containing asbestos.

Source: CNA/na/(gs)