Probe into Jenjarom battery plant to take 2 weeks

Selangor exco Hee Loy Sian during his visit to the battery factory in Jenjarom.

BANTING: The state government is expected to take two weeks to investigate the Jenjarom lead-acid battery manufacturing plant alleged to be causing pollution.

Selangor Environment, Green Technology and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Hee Loy Sian said an in-depth investigation is needed to determine the level of the acid and lead pollution.

He told a press conference at the factory here that a fire at the factory in 2017 may have caused some pollution.

He said the fire, caused by a short circuit, had affected 80% of the factory’s facilities and 1,200 tonnes of materials were destroyed.

“These materials included lead-based materials and sulphuric acid.

“A crack in the wall may have caused leakage. The acid may have been absorbed into the soil and reached a river, causing contamination,” he said.

He confirmed that the factory has ceased operations until further notice.

He said the factory was only allowed to fill up the batteries with acid and was not approved to melt lead.

However, he said the factory has been carrying out lead-smelting activity since January 2018.

“If they want to continue doing that (lead smelting), then they have to move their factory’s location elsewhere,” said Hee.

Meanwhile Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar has urged people, including NGOs and villagers, to allow the investigation to be completed.

“Until then, I want to wait first (in making a decision) as the factory as the owners have invested a lot in the project.

“I understand that villagers have their rights but let’s not rush things. Wait for the results of the probe,” said Xavier.

The Kuala Langat MP said he welcomes new industries in Malaysia and it is important to ensure that these industries grow to attract foreign investments.

However, he said these new industries must comply with standard procedures and ensure their operations do not affect the environment.

“I am asking for the Kuala Langat District Council and land office to cooperate to ensure any factories built in the future must obtain approval first.”

The factory manager, Lee Ah Ban, said the plant is focused on protecting the environment.

“We started operations in 2014 without any environmental issues. The only problem we had was the fire in 2017.”

Lee said with the guidance of the Department of Environment and an environmental consulting company, the plant removed all burnt materials using licensed contractors.

“When we resumed operations in September 2018, water effluent and air emission monitoring results, conducted by third-party contractors, were shown to be within environmental limits.

“However, after two months, in November 2018, we received a public complaint on acidic water discovered within the factory perimeter,” he said.

He said that the factory was now monitoring this issue closely.

Today, about 50 villagers protested in front of the factory, urging the government to take stern action against the factory.