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Ammonia Pollution Brings Water Supply To A Halt
By S. Kisho Kumari
KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) -- City folks in areas like Cheras and Balakong have been going through a hard time for more than two weeks now due to water shortage caused by the current hot spell and ammonia contamination at the water treatment plants.
Contingency plans have been rolled out with water tanker lorries throwing a life line at the affected areas, but hundreds and thousands of consumers and business operators lament that the emergency supply could not fulfill their daily requirements.
Due to the lack of rainfall water level at the dams receded to critical level, aggravating the ammonia contamination and this has stretched the limited potable water resources.
The water treatment plant in Cheras, which had resumed operation on Feb 2, was closed two days later when the ammonia content increased to 6.40 ppm (part per million) compared with the allowed level of 1.50ppm. The treatment plant at Bukit Tampoi remained closed since Jan 28 as the ammonia remained at 4.20 ppm.
Consumers have been asking from where does this ammonia come from?
HIGH TEMPERATURE INCREASES AMMONIA
According to the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia's (AWER) president S.Piarapakaran, though the ammonia in water is produced by the natural biological decay process, the current ammonia contamination problem is mainly due to the sewerage system's discharge into the natural water body.
"For example, after a treatment plant processes sewerage, it will discharge the waste water. This waste water may contain high level of ammonia if the treatment process is not efficient in removing the compound," he told BERNAMA.
He noted that the current hot spell had contributed to the increase in the decaying process causing more ammonia to be released.
The presence of ammonia in raw water is inevitable but when there is rainfall the ammonia is further diluted posing no harm. However, during the dry spell when the water in the reservoirs dry up the ammonia becomes concentrated and poses a health hazard.
As long as the ammonia concentration is within the allowable limits, the treatment plants can continue to operate, he said.
Unfortunately, he said the current contamination level have exceeded the allowable limits and therefore treatment plants had to be shut down.
DO AWAY WITH SEPTIC TANKS
Speaking on the contamination by the septic tanks, Piarapakaran said a study by the Department of Environment also identified that the Langat River basin was affected due to the presence of more than 33,000 individual septic tanks.
These septic tanks have to be desludged every two or three years.
"However, it is not being done due to the high fees involved to carry out the process. Do away with individual septic tanks and moving towards connected sewerage system with allowable ammonia levels are the long-term solutions.
"If this situation is not going to change, ammonia contamination is going to be a prolonged problem, unless it starts to rain and the ammonia present in the waterways are diluted," he said.
Moreover, Klang Valley residents cannot run away from the fact the water shortage may turn critical as the weather forecast by the Meteorological Department indicate that the dry spell may continue until mid-March.
The department's deputy director-general Dr Mohd Rosaidi Che Abas said that rainfall is expected to start after the ongoing monsoon transition period up to mid-March.
TAPS RUN DRY, THOUSANDS ARE AFFECTED
Nonetheless, nobody wants to be caught with their taps dry, especially those who need water supply to run their businesses.
A brief survey carried out by BERNAMA around Cheras found that few restaurants had to close due to water rationing.
A restaurant owner in Cheras, V. Sabreetharaan, 31, expressed frustration over the crisis saying that he had to spend more money in getting enough drinking water to cater for the customers.
"There was no prior notice given to us. We have also called the relevant authorities for a solution and assistance as we need water to run a restaurant but our grouses have been taken lightly too," he said.
Hopeful of a solution for the current water woes, Sabreetharaan said the water cuts in Selangor has affected people's livelihoods and is worrisome.
For a housewife, Kamariah Yusoff, 44, although she had stored water supply in advance, the amount is not sufficient due to the continuing water rationing exercise.
"I have also stopped cooking at home and am forced to buy food outside which is costing me more than my planned daily budget," she expressed.
news coverage in our Newswire service.
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