No worry, just bags of okra powder from China at Bkt Mertajam dumpsite, says DoE

Penang DoE deputy director Abdul Aziz Parmin briefing Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim at the illegal dumpsite.

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Federal environmental regulators today declared an illegal dumpsite found at an oil palm estate at Bukit Teh here to be filled with “municipal waste” and rejected animal feed from China, and, therefore, not an immediate threat to the environment.

Penang Department of Environment (DoE) deputy director Abdul Aziz Parmin said his officers did not find any scheduled waste dumped there and hence the all clear.

DoE defines scheduled waste as any waste that possesses hazardous characteristics and has the potential to adversely affect public health and environment. There are currently 77 types of scheduled waste.

The 6ha site on an oil palm estate off Jalan Besar, Machang Bubok, made news recently after mounds of solid waste, construction debris and other garbage had been dumped by lorries on the site.

Machang Bubok assemblyman Lee Khai Loon had said the site had been used as a dumping ground for nearly three years with reports to DoE going unheeded.

Piles of bags containing ‘okra powder’ from China sit on one corner of the illegal dumping ground in Bukit Teh, Bukit Mertajam. A notice placed by MPSP on the foreground orders the landowners to clear the site in 20 days.

In a briefing for Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim Chee Keong today, DoE’s Aziz said the enforcement action on the dumpsite fell under the purview of the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP).

He said, however, DoE had yet to ascertain what was the “oily liquid” found in barrels between rows of oil palm trees, some 100 metres away from this site.

“We have sent them to the Chemistry Department and we do not know when the results might come in as almost all of the department’s staff are in Johor to deal with the Sungai Kim Kim pollution issue,” he said.

After Aziz’s briefing, Sim told reporters that the MPSP had ordered the landowners to clear out the dumpsite within 20 days from March 19.

He said MPSP had also ordered illegal earthworks carried out there to be restored to the original state.

“We would like to warn other landowners who think they can act with impunity to watch out. Stern action awaits those who flout the law. Don’t think you can run away from this.

A MPSP auxiliary policeman at the illegal dumping site in Bukit Teh, Bukit Mertajam.

“Although this is not similar to Sungai Kim Kim in Johor, this is totally unacceptable,” Sim said.

Sim said he was also told by MPSP that a factory producing wood chips to make pellets was operating on the fringes of the dumpsite illegally.

Later, MPSP licensing department director Mohd Faidrol Mohd Radzi told reporters that the factory had applied for an operating licence “just today” and also applied to have the land rezoned from agricultural to industrial use.

Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said while there was no imminent risk, the possibility of leachate from the waste seeping into underground water was high.

SAM president SM Mohamed Idris said as the weather was hot and dry, it was the perfect time to clear the waste from the site, as the leachate could not get underground easily.

He said if the weather was rainy, the leachate would go underground more quickly and pose a threat to underground water.

Checks by FMT on the dumpsite found the waste from China appeared to be hundreds of bags of okra powder, typically used for animal feed or water filtration.

This was based on a label found on the bags, which also indicated it was produced in 2015.

According to the Research Journal of Environmental Sciences in 2010, okra powder is used in water filtration to absorb heavy metals in water such as cadmium, iron and zinc.