Mill effluents cause fish deaths

Source: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/10/16/southneast/15698670&sec=southneast

Monday October 16, 2006

Mill effluents cause fish deaths

By JACK WONG

KUCHING: Effluents from an oil palm mill may have caused the death of fishes in Sungai Suai, Miri.

State Assistant Minister for Environment Dr Abang Abdul Rauf Abang Zain said investigations revealed the effluents had overflowed the bunds of one of the 13 treatment ponds into the river.

The effluents did not contain any poisonous chemicals, but had very high content of organic matter which temporarily used up most of the oxygen in the water for natural biodegradation, Dr Rauf told reporters here on Wednesday.

He said the bund had overflowed because the mill operator did not desludge the treatment ponds regularly.

Investigations carried out jointly by the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) and Department of Environment also found that the operator could not produce any management plan for the effluent treatment ponds nor any emergency response plan for bund breaches.

On the recent pollution of another river - Sungai Niah, Miri - which caused the shutdown of a water treatment plant there for two days, Dr Rauf said it was also due to suspected discharge of effluents by another oil palm mill.

The two rivers are under the NREB river watch programme and the board monitors their water quality every month.

Dr Rauf assured that water from the two rivers was now safe for domestic use, and that fish from the rivers was safe for human consumption.

He said that NREB was compiling its investigation findings for submission to the state Attorney General’s Office, and would recommend stern action against the mills concerned.

He said under section 30A of the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance, the mills faced a fine of up to RM50,000 and five years jail.