Pasir Gudang pioneers Malaysia’s first early warning system for air pollution

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin (centre) tests the early warning pollution monitoring system in Pasir Gudang February 23, 2020. — Picture by Ben Tan
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin (centre) tests the early warning pollution monitoring system in Pasir Gudang February 23, 2020. — Picture by Ben Tan

PASIR GUDANG, Feb 23 — Pasir Gudang has become the first industrial city in the country to be equipped with a monitoring system that is capable of detecting air quality and hazardous airborne pollutants to provide early warning in the event of any contamination.

Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said the RM6.9 million system is equipped with an alarm for detecting harmful pollutants in the air that can alert Department of Environment (DoE) enforcement officers to take immediate action in the event of an air pollution incident.

“The system involves the installation of 25 Photoionisation Detector Stations (PID) and six units of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) around Pasir Gudang and two units of Gas Chromatography — Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) and Gas Chromatography —Flame Ionisation Detector (GCFID),” she said during a press conference at the Pasir Gudang Branch DoE office in Menara Aqabah here today.

Earlier, Yeo was accompanied by Johor Local Government, Urban Wellbeing and Environment Committee chairman Tan Chen Choon and state DoE director Mohd Famey Yusoff as she tested the system at the Pasir Gudang Municipal Stadium.

Yeo said after the Sungai Kim Kim pollution incident here in March last year, the government did not want the incident to occur again and thought of ways to increase industrial monitoring in the area.

She said that if proved successful, the system could be extended to other industrial areas throughout the country.

“The public is also expected to get information from the system through the DoE website starting in the second quarter of this year,” said Yeo.

In March last year, more than 4,000 people, mainly children, fell ill after a toxic fume incident in Sungai Kim Kim. The fallout from the incident also saw the temporary closure of 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang district.

Yeo said the DoE has doubled its enforcement on factories and premises around Pasir Gudang so that all parties fully comply with the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and the regulations under it.

She revealed that 664 inspections were carried out last year, compared to 460 the previous year.

“At the same time, 769 notices, compounds, seizures and court action were taken during the same period compared to 97 in the previous year,” said Yeo, who is also the Bakri MP.

In addition to enforcement action, Yeo said the DoE also conducts monitoring through online systems such as industrial effluent discharge quality through Online Environmental Reporting (OER) and scheduled waste disposal through the Electronic Schedule Waste Information System (E-SWIS) where it is able to detect the movement of scheduled waste from the industry to the processing or disposal facilities licensed by the agency.

“Monitoring by drones has also been implemented since October 23, to detect any contaminants and sources of contamination faster so that preventative measures can be taken early,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yeo said the new environmental act would be enacted if more amendments are made to the current Environmental Quality Act 1974.

She said her ministry is fine-tuning the changes to be made before presenting them this year.

“The ministry held a two-day workshop yesterday to review the Environmental Quality Act 1974.

“If there are a lot of changes, the ministry will create a new environmental law by this year,” said Yeo.

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