300,000 in Miri hit by water contamination

March 5, 2012

MIRI,N. Sarawawk – Water supply to the city’s 300,000 residents was cut early this month when a major diesel contamination was discovered at its main water treatment plant.

The plant was shut down at 8.30pm on Saturday immediately after the discovery.

The contamination was traced to a leaking skid tank at the fuel depot of a road construction company.

The Northern Sarawak Water Board (Laku) sent an emergency alert to oil companies to help clean up the spill in Sungai Liku in Lambir, feeding the water treatment plant.

More than 14,000 litres of diesel were believed to have leaked into the river from the skid tank, located 2 km from the plant.

Laku general manager Lo Sun Onn said water supply was reduced to a trickle in the city and resulted in dry taps in Piasau, the Tudan resettlement area, Permyjaya and Kuala Baram.

Lo reassured residents that Laku had to draw water from its emergency storage but this was only good for five hours. “However, the clean-up of the river went faster than expected and we have started to treat the water again. Supply should be back to normal ,” he said.

However, residential areas further away from Lambir, like Kuala Baram, its surrounding areas, including Tudan and Permyjaya, and those on high ground, like Taman Tuanku and Taman Jelita, will only have their water supply restored later in the day.

Sarawak Shell Berhad (SSB) and Petronas responded to Laku’s request to send men and equipment to Lambir to help in the clean-up.

An SSB spokesman said a thorough clean-up could take several days and would be difficult as much of the spilled diesel had seeped into the river bed.

The water disruption triggered a rush to buy bottled mineral water.

A resident, Joshua J, said he was among hundreds who rushed to stores to stock up on bottled mineral water. The rush prompted some store owners to hike up the price of mineral water.

“I bought a carton of 1.5-litre bottles for RM9 although the normal price is between RM7 and RM8. Friends now tell me they had to pay RM12, RM13 and RM14 per carton.”

Critical areas, like hospitals, have been assured of water supply but some small hotels have reportedly refused to take in guests.

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