Kuantan Rivers have been Polluted with Heavy Metals
Some of the water sources in Kuantan contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals as a result of unregulated bauxite mining. Photo Credit: Pixabay
Some experts expressed fears almost a year ago that a pernicious side-effect of unregulated bauxite mining in Pahang might well have been the pollution of local water sources with heavy metals.
“Almost all the water for consumption in Kuantan is drawn downstream from the mines,” observed Dr. Maketab Mohamed, an associate professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and a well-known environmentalist back in February. “The full impact of this is not appreciated as water samples drawn for testing by the Department of Environment were not from rivers used for drinking water.”
Sadly, though not surprisingly, those fears have been proven correct. An audit analysis of water quality sampling in the Kuantan area by the Department of Environment (DOE) has revealed high concentrations of heavy metals in local river water. The analysis revealed the presence of heavy iron metal, mercury and aluminum at nine locations in Sungai Riau, Mabok, Penang, Kuantan and Kuala Sungai Karang.
“The highest parameter for aluminum was 7.3mg/L in Sungai Kuantan in February 2016, while the highest parameter for iron was 10.32mg/L in Sungai Riau in August 2015,” the report said, which added that five other rivers had been spared from mining pollution while another four could be classified as “moderately” polluted. The level of mercury pollution remained relatively low.
Needless to say, any significant water pollution as a result of toxic runoff from mining activities is bad news. Heavy metals in fresh water sources could pollute the area’s drinking water supply, posing severe health hazards to locals. They could also affect local food chains with toxins spreading far and wide among people and animals.
“Heavy metals will gradually build up in food sources and contaminate every step of the food chain, potentially showing up in seafood in high concentrations,” Maketab said. “The people have the right to know. [The authorities] must tell the public of the health risks and conduct detailed tests on what is safe and what is not.”
Now the people do know.