JOHOR BARU: One of three men suspected to have dumped chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang is to be charged in court as early as tomorrow, according to Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin.
She said the completed investigation papers have been sent to the office of the deputy public prosecutor for evaluation and consideration.
“We hope to charge the suspect in court tomorrow. Upon conviction, the person can be sentenced to a maximum of five years jail and fined RM500,000 under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act 1974,” she told reporters at Menara Aqabah of the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council, here.
Yeo said she had been in contact with Attorney-General Tommy Thomas on the possibility of bringing multiple charges against the suspect due to the serious nature of the offence and inadequacy of the penalty. Almost 500 people, many of them students, have landed in hospital after inhaling the toxic fumes emanating from the waste.
“As the Department of Environment (DoE) has completed the investigation, we will go ahead and prosecute but it is not limited to this (environmental) law. The person can be charged under the Penal Code and, possibly, other laws too,” she added.
Yeo said the DoE took four samples of the chemical waste and did a detailed sampling, which found the organic solvents benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene and d-limonene. D-limonene is used in the pyrolysis treatment of tyres.
Based on the analysis, the ministry was able to identify an illegal factory as the prime suspect, she said.
Asked about the extent of the impact of the pollution, Yeo said the ministry had to first find out why the pollution spread.
“I think there are some reasons and some factors. It spread perhaps because of the rain on March 11,” she said.
When asked whether the pollution has been contained, she said: “We want to know the radius (of the pollution). I am going to the meeting later on. We want to know the radius and exactly where (the pollution has spread) and how we want to contain this,” she added.
Yeo said the important thing now is cleaning up the river as soon as possible to curb the pollution. Cleaning up the river comes under the jurisdiction of the state government.
The DoE has also installed gas detectors at varying altitudes in the Pasir Gudang area to monitor the quality of the air and its chemical content.
Yeo said the ministry had identified 252 factories in Pasir Gudang which processed chemicals.
“We will mobilise our resources across the country to investigate every factory. Right now, the priority is to check the impact of the pollution,” she said. — Bernama