Malaysia, Johor: 3 factories identified as most likely sources of Pasir Gudang air pollution

Rizalman Hammim New Straits Times 18 Jul 19;

JOHOR BARU: The Environment Department (DoE) has identified three chemical-based factories as the most likely sources of the air pollution in Pasir Gudang last month.

DoE director-general Norlin Jaafar said the factories were found to have high levels of methyl mercaptan readings when the incident was first reported.

“The three factories were identified through a process of elimination following checks on all 257 chemical-based factories in Pasir Gudang,” she said.

“All of them are also located within a 3km radius of Sekolah Agama Taman Mawar and SK Pasir Gudang 4.”

Students from the two schools were among the first to be affected during the incident. They had symptoms such as vomiting, nausea and breathing difficulties.

“The three factories have been ordered to close and we are currently in the process of completing the investigation,” she said.

“Once it is completed, we will submit it to the prosecution office for further action.”

Methyl mercaptan is a colourless, flammable gas with a smell similar to rotten eggs or cabbage.

It was one of the three substances that were detected in the area. The others were acrylonitrile and acrolein.

“Although blood tests on the victims failed to detect the substance, we believe methyl mercaptan is the most likely cause as its could contribute to the symptoms suffered by the victims,” Norlin told reporters at the Johor DoE headquarters.

Norlin said DoE had also issued 12 orders to halt the operation of equipment, 60 notices and 136 compounds totaling RM272,000 following checks on 257 factories between June 20 and July 17.

“We have also conducted integrated operations with other agencies like the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council, the Fire and Rescue Department and the Chemistry Department.

“We will continue to conduct these operations especially to identify illegal factories that are operating in the Pasir Gudang area,” she said.

State DoE director Wan Abdul Latif Wan Jaafar said, based on municipal council records, the District Office and the Land Office, 18 illegal factories had been identified in the Pasir Gudang area.

“Action has been taken on three of the factories. Other agencies need to take action on these factories because some of them are found to be operating on government reserve land,” he said.

Norlin urged the public to contact the department if they had any information about pollution.

“The public should not be afraid to come forward with such information because their identities will be protected. We offer rewards of up to RM5,000 for accurate information,” she said.

Norlin said DoE was conducting pollution loading analysis and carrying out a capacity study to evaluate and analyse the air, river water and underground water as well as the possibility that contaminated earth could have led to air pollution in Pasir Gudang.

“The study is being carried out by the Technical and Scientific Committee which had its first meeting on July 15.

“The committee comprises more than 30 experts from various fields as well as representatives from relevant agencies.

“An initial report on the study is expected to be issued within the next six weeks,” she said.

Factories found with high traces of toxic gases
The Star 19 Jul 19;

JOHOR BARU: Authorities have identified three chemical factories within the Pasir Gudang area which have been found with high traces of toxic gases.

Environment Department director-general Norlin Jaafar yesterday said the factories, which have since been sealed, were found to emit gases such as methyl mercaptan, acrolein and acrylonitrile.

“These factories have been found to have the highest methyl mercaptan readings and are within a 3km-­radius of the Taman Mawar religious school and SK Pasir Gudang 4.

“Initially, the readings were 130 parts per million (ppm) while the permissible level is about 40ppm,” she said at a press conference.

Norlin, who refused to divulge the identities of the three factories or the nature of their business, said the DoE was in the midst of completing its investigation papers.

On the various illegal factories in the area, she said DoE has carried out enforcement efforts on at least three such premises. It is learnt that there are at least 18 illegal factories in the area.

Norlin also urged the public to give relevant information as DoE was offering RM5,000 for genuine tip-offs.

“We will also keep their identities a secret,” she said, adding that DoE will continue to come down hard on polluters.


39 students from five schools in Pasir Gudang suffer breathing difficulties
mohd farhaan shah The Star 19 Jul 19;

JOHOR BARU: Another 39 students from five schools in Pasir Gudang here experienced breathing difficulties and vomiting, believed to be caused by air pollution.

The incident happened on Thursday (July 18) just when the Department of Environment (DOE) announced it would take action against 18 illegal chemical factories be operating in the Pasir Gudang area.

Johor Health, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar said the five schools were SK Tanjung Puteri Resort with 30 students, SK Kopok (six students), and one student each from SK Kota Masai, SK Pasir Gudang 4 and SMK Tanjung Puteri Resort.

He added that as of 2pm on July 18, the students showed symptoms of breathing difficulties and vomiting.

Mohd Khuzzan added that the Health Department has taken urine samples from the students to determine the cause of the symptoms.

He stressed that the state government has never taken the air pollution incident in Pasir Gudang lightly.

"Until now, all agencies involved keep on conducting monitoring from time to time including the air quality in the area.

"In fact, I been informed that DOE will reward any individuals that are able to provide information on pollution in Pasir Gudang," he added.

It was reported that DOE director-general Norlin Jaafar said so far, they have taken action against three factories in a series of joint operations with other agencies.

Norlin said DOE officers had checked 257 registered chemical factories.

The three companies, located within a 3km radius, reportedly released high levels of gases such as methyl mercaptan, acrolein and acrylonitrile.

On the checks on 257 factories, she said at least 12 stop-work orders had been issued along with 60 notices and 136 compounds totalling RM270,000.

Norlin urged the public to forward information on pollution cases to the department as they were offering a reward of RM5,000.