The Star Malaysia
Keeping poisons out of our rivers
Minister: Leachate contamination must be addressed
Leachate from landfills getting into our raw water supply is a serious issue that must be tackled at multiple levels. While the Government wants all parties involved to work on a holistic solution, experts caution that ammonia and heavy metals will pose an increasing danger as the amount of solid waste generated grows exponentially.
PETALING JAYA: The serious and recurring issue of leachate contamination needs to be addressed with an improvement in the design specifications and location of landfills in the country.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (pic) said there is a need to look for a holistic solution to ensure the safety of raw water resources.
A meeting between the ministry and state executive councillors in charge of the environment will be called soon.
“I will make sure that the Department of Environment (DOE) will table the paper,” he told The Star yesterday. “We will discuss what everyone can do. We are not just looking at landfills. We are also looking into oil palm plantations that are near rivers to ensure that our water sources are protected.
“The industry must go on but it must be environmentally friendly.”
Dr Wan Junaidi said landfills are under the jurisdiction of local councils but most do not follow the specifications set by his ministry.
He added that local councils “sometimes do things independently”, and do not consult the ministry.
As the local custodian of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the ministry had done well in aspects such as forestry management and reducing carbon emission, he added.
“But we are not doing well in terms of waste disposal or waste management.”
Dr Wan Junaidi said the ministry is also looking into mechanisms for the management and proper flow of ewaste – discarded electronic and electrical devices.
“We hope all parties, including politicians, will play a role and not politicise the issue,” he added. On Saturday, Bernama reported that six solid waste landfills were found to have serious and recurring leachate contamination issues.
The six are the former ones at Taman Beringin, Kuala Lumpur; Pajam, Negri Sembilan; Sungai Udang, Melaka; Pulau Burung, Penang; Tanah Merah Estate, Negri Sembilan; and CEP Simpang Renggam Estate, Johor.
Dr Wan Junaidi said monitoring by the DOE revealed that the pollution was due to the design of the landfill and existing leachate treatment system that was less efficient compared to the increasing volume of solid waste received.
“The collapse of retention ponds caused the sediment discharged to flow into nearby rivers and damage the equipment or components at the landfill, which is part of the pollution control system,” he said.
He said the lack of competent operators, in terms of environmental control, at the affected solid waste landfills was also another factor.
The DOE had taken enforcement action in 74 instances against those responsible for managing the six landfills, including issuing directives, compounds and taking court action, he said.
Cases of noncompliance were investigated under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, involving a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or a jail term of not more than five years or both, and an additional fine of RM1,000 for each day the offence was continued, in accordance with the Environmental Quality (Prescribed Activities) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Order 2015.
The penalty for violations of the Environmental Quality (Control of Pollution From Solid Waste Transfer Station And Landfill) Regulations 2009 is a RM100,000 maximum fine or jail term not exceeding five years, or both, and a subsequent fine of up to RM1,000 for each day the offence is continued, upon conviction.
He said the Government would not compromise and stern action will be taken against those found to have polluted the environment.