Energy Minister: Situation in Pasir Gudang improves following clean-up progress

Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin speaks to reporters at the Parliament lobby in Kuala Lumpur March 14, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin speaks to reporters at the Parliament lobby in Kuala Lumpur March 14, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

PASIR GUDANG, March 15 — The government today announced that the Pasir Gudang toxic fume incident is contained and the situation is improving, following a massive clean-up of the main affected stretch of Sungai Kim Kim here.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said about 680 metres of the affected 1.5km stretch of Sungai Kim Kim has been cleared up.

“The 680 metre stretch is considered the most polluted in the river. This is the location where the illegal substance was dumped causing the toxic pollution.

“It’s a good progress as the most polluted part of the river has been cleaned up and the contractors will continue working to complete the job,” said Yeo during a press conference earlier.

Also present at the press conference was Johor Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Dr Sahruddin Jamal and state Women Development and Tourism Committee chairman Liow Cai Tung.

Yeo also revealed that Sungai Kim Kim itself is already considered a very polluted river even before the toxic dumping incident.

She said efforts will be made to rehabilitate the river’s water quality.

Yeo, who is also the Bakri MP, said that the authorities have employed the use of mobile detectors where the improvement of air quality is recorded within the affected areas.

She expressed her satisfaction that there is a marked improvement on the situation compared to the previous days.

“There is a downward trend starting from March 13 where 178 victims were admitted to hospitals, and when the schools were closed on March 14 the figures went down to 113, before dropping to 32 today.

“However, we still need to be cautious and not take things for granted as there is still much cleaning work to be done in Sungai Kim Kim,” said Yeo.

On efforts to combat negative perceptions, Yeo also announced a setting up of a scientific committee to investigate the polluted incident in a methodical and systematic way to assist the Johor government.

She said that the committee, which is headed by a professor from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), would focus on four main areas.

“This includes data management, prevention future waves, environmental monitoring and groundwater and soil vapour intrusion,” added Yeo.

Meanwhile, Dr Sahruddin said that a total of 73 victims who were under treatment at Sultan Ismail Hospital (HSI) and Sultanah Aminah Hospital (HSA) have been discharged and allowed to return home.

“Until 3pm on today, a total of 480 victims received initial treatment at the medic base in the Pasir Gudang Indoor Stadium but only 20 have been referred to hospitals for further treatment,” he said.

Dr Sahruddin said the state government plans to organise a townhall session involving elected representatives, councilors and municipal council officers to update Pasir Gudang residents on the status.