Water with arsenic in Gerik safe for washing, says deputy health minister

Lee said SPAN as the regulator would have the final say on whether the plant resumes operations or not. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Lee said SPAN as the regulator would have the final say on whether the plant resumes operations or not. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, April 28 — Deputy Heath Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye assured Perakians in Gerik today that they will not be harmed using arsenic-laced water as long as they don’t drink it.

Dr Lee confirmed that the Health Ministry issued a recommendation letter to National Water Services Commission (SPAN) to reopen the Ayer Ganda water treatment plant in Gerik last week even though the chemical has not been entirely removed.

“While there is presence of arsenic in the water, it can still be used for washing. Just do not drink the water,” he told reporters here after closing a blood donation campaign at Kampung Baru Gunung Rapat basketball court.

However, Dr Lee said SPAN as the regulator would have the final say on whether the plant resumes operations or not.

“Health Ministry only gives its technical input with regards to safety of water. In the ministry, there are scheduled monitoring of water quality, not only for arsenic but we also check on other things such as how much sediment and bacteria is in the water post-treatment to make sure water is safe for consumption,” he added.

To a question, Dr Lee said the ministry did not have any qualms in recommending that the water treatment plant be reopened.

“The only condition is the water cannot be used for drinking but other purposes,” he said.

On April 4, state Education, Science, Environment and Green Technology Committee chairman Abdul Aziz Bari said arsenic had been discovered in water from Sungai Rui in Hulu Perak.

Five days later, SPAN ordered the state government to shut down the water treatment plant as a precautionary measure, despite the water treatment plant showing traces of arsenic below the standard set by the World Health Organisation.

LAP later announced they would build 11.5 kilometres of pipes and booster pumps to channel treated water from the Lawin water treatment plant to Kampung Air Ganda following the closure of the water treatment plant.

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