LANGKAWI: Lafarge Cement Sdn Bhd, the operator of a cement factory here, is prepared to bear the cost of cleaning up the properties of residents in three villages affected by the dust accidentally released from its factory last Monday.
Factory Manager Sekar Kaliannan today said any other claims made by affected villagers would be discussed in a meeting to be held this Saturday.
“So far, what we agreed is to reimburse the cost of cleaning incurred by the villagers,” he told reporters after giving a briefing on the incident to the State Health Committee Chairman Dr Leong Yong Kong and Kuah Assemblyman Nor Saidi Nanyan at the factory today.
He said Lafarge would also take follow-up action to implement a group insurance coverage for residents of nearby villages, as proposed by Nor Saidi.
During the briefing, Sekar said dust from the factory was accidentally released into the air at about 9am on Monday due to the repair work on a clogged processing unit.
Winds then blew the dust to Kampung Teluk Yu, Kampung Belibih and Kampung Pasir Hitam, affecting about 1,000 houses there.
“We did not expect this to happen and it has never happened before. We apologise to all the affected residents and we will ensure that it will not recur.
“It was an accident because in normal circumstances, dust excess from the processing units will fall within the factory area,” he said, adding that the factory was operating below its maximum capacity during the incident.
Meanwhile, Dr Leong said the absence of an adequate buffer zone between the factory and the villages required the company to improve its environmental protection measures.
He said the factory had been operating since 1984, even before the enforcement of the regulation requiring the creation of a buffer zone of at least 500 metres between a factory and nearby residential areas.
“Looking at the situation, there is indeed an urgent need to create a buffer zone between the cement factory and the surrounding residential areas.”