SELCAT Hearing on Raw Water from the Mining Ponds in Bestari Jaya
1.0 Where and what?
Bestari Jaya is an ex tin mine, the operations ceased in the 90s. The nearest town is Kuala Selangor and these ponds are next to the Unisel campus. Source: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,101.4538907,14z
There are over 100 ex-tin mine ponds in the area. These ponds are of various sizes. The Sungai Ayer Hitam runs alongside these ponds and this river then connects to Sungai Udang and finally to Sungai Selangor.
Water from the mining ponds is already flowing into Sungai Selangor from rain run-off. The ponds are also mostly interconnected below the land/water surface.
Raw water from this area is then processed at the Sungai Selangor Dam Water Treatment Plant
Is the raw water safe?
In 2010, Universiti Malaya (UM) did a sampling of the raw water and found a significant presence of heavy metals in the water and also plant life. This report is found here: Source: http://220.127.116.11/en/VEWSSID/J_pdf/92220113005.pdf
2.2 The findings of the report are as such: the quality of water was very bad, in particular with dangerous levels of lead and tin. There are also traces of arsenic, chromium, copper, and zinc.
2.3 It is a scientific medical fact that the consumption of lead can cause mental disability and physical deformities in babies and children. It is also a scientific and medical fact that the consumption of any level of arsenic in water will cause long-term skin problems and cancer. In the United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency has mandated a strict target of zero arsenic in water.
2.4 In addition to the report, the UM researchers came to my office on 5th May 2014. The UM team's last field trip there was in mid-April 2014. UM noted only sand mining activities and did not see any water quality rehabilitation efforts in the area.
2.5 UM also recommended no aquaculture activities (i.e fish rearing) should take place in the area. UM said that once samples are collected, the test to trace for heavy metals can be done in a mere 2 to 3 hours.
2.6 According to the Star, the Selangor MB has declared that the water from the ponds is safe.
2.7 LUAS has also said that periodic tests have been done. According to LUAS, the tests showed that the water quality was above the Federal government health standards.
2.8 Investigative journalists from The New Straits Times have claimed that the water there is toxic. Selangor claims otherwise.
2.9 A most interesting read are the questions posed to LUAS by the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) in this article: Appendix 2: http://www.nst.com.my/latest/mining-pool-water-safe-to-drink-1.591410
The 9 questions raised by Awer in the article are as follows:
2.9.1 When exactly, during the dry spell in March, did LUAS release water from the mining pool into Sungai Selangor?
2.9.2 Was a toxicity test on the water from the mining pools done for metal pollutants before it was released?
2.9.3 Was the volume of water in the river enough to dilute metal pollutants in the water from the mining pools if there were any?
2.9.4 Was a test on metal pollutants carried out when the water was channeled into treatment plants and before it was released to the public?
2.9.5 What were the parameters of Luas’ tests?
2.9.6 How was Luas’ sampling on May 2 done? What were the exact depths and locations of the water samples taken from the mining pool?
2.9.7 How exactly would the water treatment plants filter metal pollutants?
2.9.8 If Luas said water from the mining pools was only pumped out in March, explain the visuals (taken on Sunday and as shown in NST Online) that showed water from the pools flowing into the river.
2.9.9 Can Luas say for sure that it's channeling of water from Sungai Selangor into the mining ponds it said were being used as storage, will not cause heavy metal sediments to be stirred up.
2.10 To date, I am not aware of any independent verification of the water data from both sides. My main concern is based primarily on the findings of the original UM report, which was done 2 years before this controversy began, hence is devoid of any untoward political agenda whatsoever.
2.11 YB Charles Santiago has been the first politician to have raised this matter to the public. He has rightly asked for independent tests to be done to clarify the issue once and for all. I fully support this position.
3.0 Can the water be treated at the source; i.e in the ponds?
Yes, UM said that there are several treatment options for rehabilitating mining ponds such as those found in Bestari Jaya.
UM also said that it will take somewhere between six months to two years to successfully rehabilitate such a mining pond. UM noted that with ongoing sand mining activities, no proper rehabilitation of the ponds can take place until the sand mining operations are halted completely. Since there are about 100 pounds, this will require quite an intensive and sizable cleanup effort.
4.0 Can the water treatment plant remove heavy metals?
According to water engineers, the answer is no. Water treatment plants are not equipped to extract heavy metals from the raw water supply. As such, the only solution is to prevent heavy metals from entering the raw water source.
4.2 Is the current treated water consumed contaminated by heavy metal
The short answer is we do not know unless we do further tests. However, some water engineers think this is unlikely. They explained that even if the water from the ponds is found to have traces of heavy metals, the traces will most likely be minimal by the time it reaches the treatment plant. This is due to the dilution of any such contaminated water with other safer sources of water. However this is merely an opinion without data and at any rate, we should never ever dump heavy metals into any river.
At the water treatment plant, three tests are conducted for health and safety purposes. The first test is done at the point of intake, another during mid-treatment, and the last one after treatment.
Summary of Findings
This is a serious public health issue. The UM report is free of politics; it is a credible academic paper and as such deserves serious consideration
The Selangor government has not engaged the rakyat fully on the matter and threats to sue people who question this issue are acts unbecoming of good governance
To date, there is no evidence that the Selangor government has done proper planning for the project. Proper planning will entail total pond rehabilitation efforts first, making sure the water is potable and free of heavy metals before pumping such water into Sungai Selangor for public consumption.
7.0Questions that need answers
7.1 I am not aware of any independent verification of water quality data. Where is the data and will Selangor release the same to an independent body like UM to verify?
7.2 Before this water pumping project was approved, did Selangor carry out any environmental impact assessment and any health impact assessment reports? If yes, where are the reports? If no, why were none prepared?
7.3 I am of the view that this project was somewhat rushed and as such, why has the Selangor state bought four pumps, leased 5 more, and intend to quickly purchase another 10 pumps at the cost of RM200,000 each? Why is the MB rushing to spend immediately some RM10 million to build infrastructure for the project?