Consumers in Selangor left high and dry

A resident washes his face while filling up water from a Syabas tanker.— Pictures by Azneal Ishak
A resident washes his face while filling up water from a Syabas tanker.— Pictures by Azneal Ishak

PETALING JAYA, Sept 25 — More than one million consumers in Selangor had a damper in their weekend plans with an unscheduled water disruption, and are now left wondering when supply would resume after contaminants triggered alarm bells at the Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment plant in Dengkil.

As engineers and water experts worked round the clock to address the crisis, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) said yesterday they were up against a critical situation as the issue had turned into a serious problem.

“At present, more than 300,000 premises in Selangor are affected and we are doing all we can to ensure treated water supply resumes,” Syabas corporate communications chief Amin Lin Abdullah told Sunday Mail.

Sungai Semenyih is the main waterway from the Semenyih dam to the treatment plant, about 55km away, and this facility produces more than 630 million litres of clean water daily for consumers.

The key affected districts and surrounding areas are Bangi, Bandar Bukit Mahkota, Kajang, Semenyih and Rinching (Hulu Langat district), Morib, Banting, Bandar Saujana Putra, Bandar Rimbayu, Telok Panglima Garang (Kuala Langat), Subang Jaya’s USJ 1 to USJ 27, Puchong, Seri Kembangan and Serdang (Petaling), Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Bandar Nusa Putra, Putra Heights, Pulau Meranti, Kota Warisan, Bandar Bukit Puchong and Sungai Merab (Sepang district).

Konsortium ABASS Sdn Bhd, the concessionaire of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant, ensures stringent measures are in place to check all sources of pollution in the river.

Besides debris, other forms of rubbish are also “intercepted” at bin-traps, and stop-gaps are also put in place to filter pollutants before water flow reaches the treatment plant.

Around lunchtime on Thursday, alarm bells triggered when contaminated water reached the treatment facility, activating a shutdown.

The necessary remedial work was undertaken and the treatment plant resumed operations just before midnight on the same day.

Mohd Ikmal Zafri, eight, waits anxiously for his water bucket to be filled when Syabas water tanker came to his neightbourhood in USJ 6.
Mohd Ikmal Zafri, eight, waits anxiously for his water bucket to be filled when Syabas water tanker came to his neightbourhood in USJ 6.

About 5.30pm on Friday, a second shutdown was triggered at the treatment plant over a pollution problem. This lasted until 1am yesterday.

Eight hours later, a third shutdown was triggered and the cleanup process resumed. This lasted till after 3pm.

Last night, checks with Syabas revealed the treatment plant had resumed operations to treat raw water from Sungai Semenyih. Authorities are hoping that treated water released at dawn today would be free of contaminants.

As the water treatment facility underwent some heavy contamination since Thursday, it also underwent some necessary emergency rectification works.

“This is a very serious issue. We are doing all we can at this moment to ensure that the water is treated well so residents can have clean water again,”  said Amin Lin.

“It is a critical situation as the pollutants found in the water is of high toxicity.

“This was another reason why we cannot determine how long this situation will last,” he said. 

While remedial works were underway at the treatment plant, officers were despatched upstream to identify the source of the contamination and pollutants.

The Semenyih Hi-tech Industrial Park, about 37km upstream, was pinpointed to be the source of the problem as there were tributaries and lakes within the vicinity.

“We are in the midst of identifying which factory or premises the pollutants were released from,” Amin Lin said. 

“Our initial investigation revealed the pollutant to be toxic chemical in nature as there was foul odour in the effluent.

“The pollutant was not visible and it was the odour which alerted us of its presence,” he said, adding such pollutants are hazardous to the treatment facility.

The smile says it all for this boy at Goodyear Court 2 in USJ 6 after receiving bottled water from Syabas.— Picture by Azneal Ishak
The smile says it all for this boy at Goodyear Court 2 in USJ 6 after receiving bottled water from Syabas.— Picture by Azneal Ishak

The present disruption was unavoidable as treated water needs to undergo intensive screening before it’s released for consumer use.

“If the contamination levels are detected again, we would shutdown, resume filtering and cleaning.

“This is necessary so residents will receive properly treated water fit for consumption,” he said. 

Amin Lin said factory owners and operators should have disposed the waste through proper networks to prevent such a situation.

“We have tested water samples to identify the exact chemical and toxic waste which caused this problem to occur. The results will be out soon.”

To ease consumers woes, Syabas has put on standy 75 water tankers to provide affected residents with treated water.

“The water tankers will be sent to the affected areas three times a day. 

“However, residents in a particular area who are in need of extra water supply can contact us for assistance.”

Last year, the Sungai Semenyih treatment plant underwent a similar crisis, resulting in disruptions to all the districts which drew supply from this treatment plant.

Those who require supply can send short message service to 15300 for water supply, or download the mySyabas application (Google Play Store).