IWK admits to ‘earthy-coloured’ river discharge, insists safe

Shahrul Nizam showing a sample of the treated effluent which is almost clear that was released into the river. — Pictures by K.E. Ooi
Shahrul Nizam showing a sample of the treated effluent which is almost clear that was released into the river. — Pictures by K.E. Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 7 — Sewage treatment operator Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd (IWK) admitted today it had released “earthy-coloured” effluents into a Penang river but maintained the discharge is safe.

IWK senior communications manager Shahrul Nizam Sulaiman refuted claims the company had polluted Sungai Batu Ferringhi here, saying it only released treated effluents into the river.

“On Tuesday, there was some maintenance works so a valve from the aeration tank was loose for about 20 minutes which resulted in the release of brownish water into the river at about 10am,” he said after showing reporters around IWK's Batu Feringghi treatment plant, located next to the river.

IWK has been under fire in the past few days since test results of water samples from Sungai Batu Feringghi was found to contain Escherichia coli (E. coli).

E. coli is a bacterium that lives in the digestive tracts of humans and animals and can cause diarrhoea, severe anaemia or kidney failure, which could lead to death.

The river to the north of the state flows into the sea at Batu Ferringhi, a popular beach and tourist belt in Penang.

Shahrul Nizam said IWK always met the environmental requirements set by the Department of Environment (DoE).

“Before we release effluents into the river, we have to first comply with the requirements, which is to achieve a minimum of Standard B,” he said.

“The latest effluent results for samples taken on February 3 and 4 showed that all parameters comply with Standard B,” he added.

He explained that under Standard B — the second-highest safety level for effluents — the effluents must be within the parameters of 100 milligrammes per litre (mg/L) of suspended solids (SS) and 50 mg/l of bio oxygen demand (BOD).

The highest safety level, Standard A is 50 mg/l of SS and 20 mg/l of BOD.

Shahrul Nizam said IWK routinely achieves Standard A safety grades even though it is only required to achieve Standard B.

Yesterday, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng chided the company for allegedly polluting the river and said the state will find ways to take action against IWK.

The IWK treatment plant in Batu Feringghi.
The IWK treatment plant in Batu Feringghi.

IWK is also scheduled to meet with the state executive councillors later today to discuss the polluted river issue.

Shahrul Nizam said IWK will further investigate the discharge, adding that the company has already sent samples of sand taken from the controversial river, as well as black particles found in it, to Universiti Sains Malaysia for testing.

He added that IWK will look for similar particles further up from the river as well as upstream of the effluent pipe and the discharge point of a food hawker zone in the area. 

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