PASIR GUDANG, March 18 — At least 15 blue barrels believed to contain chemical waste were removed from the banks of Sungai Masai here this afternoon after a similar operation at Sungai Semilang earlier today.
Sungai Masai is the third illegal dumping site discovered since toxic fumes emitted by waste dumped into Sungai Kim Kim hospitalised more than 3,000 people and forced the closure of 111 schools on March 7.
Police and the Fire and Rescue Department’s hazardous material unit (Hazmat) were at the latest site and personnel from a private environment firm were seen removing the barrels from about 2pm.
A 300m stretch at Kilometre 17 of the Pasir Gudang-Johor Baru Highway towards the state capital were closed, resulting in a traffic congestion until 7pm as authorities load the barrels into a lorry.
A source close to the operation said the authorities were notified of the blue barrels by the public yesterday.
“Following the sighting, a team was immediately despatched to investigate the matter at the river’s location which is adjacent to the Pasir Gudang Highway and near a petrol station.
“We can confirm that authorities are clearing the barrels from Sungai Masai which will directly flow out to the Johor Straits fronting Singapore’s eastern side,” said the source on condition of anonymity.
However, the source said the contents of the barrels that resemble chemical substance have yet to be ascertained, pending a toxicology test.
Sungai Masai, which is considered one of Pasir Gudang’s main rivers, is located about 16km from the polluted Sungai Kim Kim. Both rivers are not connected.
Earlier today, Malay Mail highlighted another discovery where similar blue barrels were found under a bridge near Sungai Sembilan at Taman Tanjung Puteri Resort.
It was initially discovered on Thursday by residents, but residents claimed that no action was taken until today.
It is learnt that part of the river, that connects to Sungai Kim Kim, has been blocked off by authorities.
When contacted by Malay Mail, Johor Department of Environment (DOE) director Datuk Mohammad Ezanni Mat Salleh said he will look into the two new locations.
Meanwhile, at the Ground Command Centre in Menara Aqabah here, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin cancelled a scheduled press conference.
However, her ministry issued a statement under the Department of Environment (DOE) regarding the improving overall air quality in Pasir Gudang.
The statement said a total of 42 schools were monitored by 30 teams who took air samples at 12pm, 3pm and 6pm today.
“Overall, almost all schools showed a zero Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) reading, except Sekolah Taman Rinting 3 that picked up a reading of between five and three at 3pm,” read the statement.
The statement added that there was no hydrogen disulfide, readings in all schools.
The alleged illegal dumping of chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim on March 7 has affected more than 3,000 people including school children, but no fatalities were reported.