Parliament Q&A

Written reply by Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on Impact of Methane Fumes Incident at Pasir Gudang to the Environmental Impact of Singapore on 1 April 2019

Question by Mr Desmond Choo: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources with regard to the methane fumes incident at Pasir Gudang (a) what is the environmental impact on Singapore; (b) whether there is an adverse impact on our fisheries; and (c) what are the early detection systems put in place to alert Singaporeans.

Answer by Minister:

1     According to media reports, since 7 March 2019, more than 3,000 Johoreans fell ill as a result of illegal dumping of chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim, a river in Pasir Gudang. Hazardous fumes caused severe symptoms including nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting. Thousands needed immediate medical attention and many, including children, were admitted to hospitals for treatment. All 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang district were closed on 13 March 2019 for more than 2 weeks.

2     Throughout this period, our agencies have been closely monitoring the situation and putting in place precautionary measures to guard against any potential pollution impacts arising from the illegal dumping of chemical waste at Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang. We have not detected any pollution impacts on Singapore’s air and water quality or water supply.

3     The National Environment Agency (NEA) continuously monitors the ambient concentration of a variety of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at our air monitoring stations, including at four stations located in the north-eastern region of Singapore. These include benzene, toluene, and xylene, as well as other common VOCs from industrial emissions which are also closely monitored by other environmental agencies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

4     NEA has not detected any elevated levels of VOCs. The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has also been in the Good to Low-Moderate range, while the 1-hour PM2.5 readings remained in the Normal range. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has also deployed its portable stand-off chemical gas detectors at the northeast region of Singapore to detect toxic chemicals, and has not detected any toxic chemicals in the air.

5     For water quality, NEA’s continuous buoy-based coastal water quality monitoring sensors deployed along the Straits of Johor have not detected any unusual variation in the key physical, chemical, and microbiological water quality parameters. NEA has also taken the additional step of collecting water samples at Pulau Ubin and its vicinity to test additional parameters, including compounds Malaysia has identified due to the chemical waste dumped in Sungai Kim Kim. These compounds have not been detected in our water samples. NEA has also not detected any anomalies in the quality of the waters at our recreational coastal beaches.

6     PUB’s online sensors have shown that the water quality of Johor River, our waterways and reservoirs in the north and north-eastern part of Singapore, as well as the water supply is within normal variations. On-site inspections and water quality checks have also shown no abnormalities. As a precautionary measure, PUB has installed oil booms at the outlet drains and estuaries along the north and north-eastern coast of Singapore. This incident has no impact on our water supply as the chemical dumping location is outside of our Johor River catchment area, where part of our water supply comes from.

7     There have been no reports of unusual fish mortality at our local fish farms in the Straits of Johor. Singapore Food Agency (SFA)’s tests of seafood samples from these fish farms for compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), VOCs, and heavy metals have not detected any anomalies.

8     We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates if there are any significant developments. We will also continue to step up our checks and enforcement, to protect our environment and safeguard the health and safety of Singaporeans.



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