Air, water quality in Singapore not affected by Pasir Gudang pollution incidents: Masagos

Emergency personnel help students school evacuate after toxic chemical spill in Pasir Gudang, Johor, on 13 March, 2019. (AP file photo)

SINGAPORE — The quality of air and water in Singapore has not been affected by the recent pollution incidents in Pasir Gudang, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Monday (8 July).

“The ambient levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the north-east region (of Singapore) were also well within safety limits,” added Masagos, who was speaking in Parliament.

Masagos noted that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had deployed portable stand-off chemical gas detectors in the north-east of Singapore and did not detect any toxic chemicals in the air.

“The NEA and SCDF are in constant contact with Malaysia’s Department of Environment and Fire and Rescue Department on these latest incidents and will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates if there are significant developments,” he added.

In March, thousands fell ill after chemical waste was illegally dumped into the Kim Kim River in Pasir Gudang, Johor. Several were hospitalised, including students at nearby schools, with the incident prompting over 100 schools to close.

Wang Jing Chao, a 34-year-old Singaporean, and two Malaysians were later charged in Malaysia over the incidents.

Since 20 June, hundreds of students in the area have also reported experiencing breathing difficulties and nausea, but authorities have yet to ascertain the cause.

A group of 160 victims - including 34 student and 120 fishermen - is expected to file a lawsuit later this month against the Johor chief minister and the state government and seek at least RM5 million (S$1.64 million), among others, for damages caused by the incidents, according to The Star newspaper.

Masagos said that the National Environment Agency (NEA) monitors Singapore’s air quality through a network of five monitoring stations across the island. These stations collate data, which forms the hourly pollutants standards index (PSI) report.

The NEA also checks the coastal water quality continuously through buoy-based monitoring sensors deploying in eight locations around Singapore, including the Straits of Johor, he added. This process is supplemented by the monthly collection of samples from 48 sampling points around Singapore.

“From 2008 to 2018, the air and water quality in the north-east region were comparable to the rest of Singapore, including during the north-east monsoon season.”

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