IWK puts Selangor water woes into perspective

by TMR

INDAH Water Konsortium (IWK) Sdn Bhd received the bulk of the blame when millions of domestic and commercial users were affected by a spate of river pollutions in Selangor this year.

On November 5, several news outlets reported IWK as among the companies found to be polluting water resources in the state and in which IWK had pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 25 (1) of the Environmental Quality Act.

It was also reported that the national sewerage company was fined RM15,000 for polluting the Air Selangor water treatment plant.

IWK CEO Narendran Maniam said the case, which was an isolated predicament, had been taken out of context and that in September 2019, an interruption to the flow of wastewater in IWK’s sewer pipeline was damaged by a third-party contractor who were conducting underground utility installation works.

In response to that, IWK had to immediately activate a temporary emergency bypass pipe to avoid overflowing that would inconvenience the public. IWK had also informed the Department of Environment and related stakeholders about the matter.

Furthermore, the shutdown of Air Selangor water treatment plant in September 2019 was due to odour pollution caused by illegal dumping of prohibited waste into the sewerage system therefore, the fine of RM15,000 on IWK was not related to this incident and shut down of the water treatment plant, Narendran said.

“Taken out of context, it would seem as though IWK is polluting, when in fact, IWK is doing its level best to protect and preserve the environment particularly our water source,” Narendran added.

Narendran was also disappointed over the accusations that IWK was polluting the waterways, which irresponsible parties had dumped wastes illegally into.

“IWK had been taking the fall for many incidents because we are an easy target. It is time to stop blaming us.

“It saddens us how quickly the public had forgotten that during the Movement Control Order (MCO), we had excellent water and air quality, and IWK was fully operational and discharging treated effluent into waterways,” Narendran said.

IWK operates and maintains 8,147 sewage treatment plants (STPs) and network pumping stations nationwide. In all these plants, IWK’s operation must comply with standards set by the regulators and authorities.

As of September 2020, IWK’s level of compliance to the Environmental Quality (Sewage) Regulation stood at 97.1%, which is higher than the compliance level of 96% last year.

While IWK faces issues of higher compliance requirement and inquiries from customers at times, they were resolved within the stipulated level of service (LOS) requirement set by the National Water Services Commission (SPAN).

However, Narendran said the stringent adherence to the standards can easily be undone by irresponsible culprits who dispose wastes illegally into the public sewers.

Additionally, there are other sources of water pollution for example individual septic tanks (IST), communal septic tanks (CST) and pour flushes which were not properly maintained.

“Based on the information that we gathered, there are approximately 97,894 ISTs, CSTs and pour flushes within the water catchment area in Selangor. Out of this number only an average of 3.5% are properly maintained,” he added.

On the other hand, when IWK was mandated to maintain and operate the national sewerage system, Selangor recorded a significant improvement with a compliance level of 97%. The state recorded far better sewerage connectivity of 90%, compared to 83% about 10 years ago.

This is mainly attributed to IWK’s role in providing efficient planning for the sewerage system and services where more than RM3 billion were invested under the 9th and 10th Malaysia Plan (2006-2015), as well as the ongoing 11th Malaysia Plan (2016 – 2020).

Selangor has some of the best state-of-the-art and modern sewerage system in the country which not only meets stringent effluent quality standards but are also neighbourhood friendly with its architecture that assimilates with the local environment and ambience.

The sewerage infrastructure development undertaken is required to ensure that the people in Malaysia have access to high standards of public sanitation.

In addition, SPAN has approved a budget of RM142.8mil to upgrade 644 sewage treatment plants that will see increased quality of effluent discharge. As the delivery of the plant upgrades are done in phases, this welcoming approval defines the effort by the regulators and IWK to preserve the environment.

All IWK sewage treatment plants operate around the clock throughout the year. While large sewage treatment plants are manned manually, smaller plants are operated in automated mode with frequent visitation by IWK’s operations team.

This, too, can be easily undone by criminal acts and the perpetrators should be brought to justice for polluting raw water supply which is a crucial basic human need.

Therefore, IWK sought for the public and related authorities to hold those responsible accountable, instead of the entity which is doing its level best to preserve the environment.