KUALA LUMPUR, June 19:
Selangor has been urged to engage the World Health Organisation (WHO) to conduct a forensic water quality study on water pumped from disused mining ponds.
Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago, who is also the Coalition Against Water Privatisation coordinator, warned that this was because the Selangor government is seemingly “playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette” with the public’s safety.
This is because Selangor is insisting that water from the disused mining ponds is safe for consumption.
“The Selangor Water Management Board (LUAS) plans to channel water from the Hang Tuah mining pond to Sungai Selangor during low tide or the dry season. When the tide is high in the river due to rain, the water is then pumped back into Hang Tuah.
“The rationale here is that the heavy metals would become diluted because of the increased amount of water. In short, it is a kind of a storage and dilution method,” Santiago said in a statement in Parliament today.
He said that this meant that the water that got channelled into the treatment plant would have heavy metals.
“And, all four existing treatment plants in Selangor, which use conventional methods are not equipped to treat this contamination.
“The National Water Services Commission (SPAN), as regulator of the industry, should have come up with a protocol and guidelines about the use of water from ex-mining ponds, including a thorough Health and Environmental Impact Assessment Study.
“These are serious concerns as the consequences of a wrong strategy has the potential to affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Santiago added.
He also pointed out that Canada had faced a similar situation and its public health officials had declared that communities were at risk as contaminants in the water from mining pools became more concentrated with less water available to dilute it.
“If there is rainfall and the heavy metal content gets diluted, we simply cannot do a Houdini and make them disappear as experts say that any amount of heavy metals, however small, will have an impact on the human body over time.”
Santiago again stressed that that his concerns were warranted as they were based on an independent study conducted by Universiti Malaya (UM).
Selangor was forced to source water from disused mining ponds after water in the state’s dams plunged to critical levels following long dry spells caused by climate change recently.
The state’s Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, had on several occasions insisted that water extracted from the disused mining ponds was safe.
He said that tests by the Health Ministry were also done to ascertain this.
Khalid had also said the findings of the results of pond waters tested in the state, including from the allegedly hazardous pond in Bestari Jaya, would be made public starting June 13, through LUAS’ website. (The website now displays this information now.)
Santiago had previously threatened to sue the state government if the results of the studies on the tin mining pond in Bestari Jaya were not revealed.
While insisting that water from abandoned mining ponds was a health hazard if consumed, he stressed that it would also pollute the Selangor River as the existing treatment plants were not equipped to remove traces of heavy metals.