Sunday, April 12, 2015

Compliance of the Effluent Discharge (Concentration) Versus The Impact on the River - The Case of Sg Sepetang

The latest Environmental Quality Report published by the DOE (Malaysia) indicated that there was more that 90 % compliance of the effluent discharge standards (Standards A and B) by industries in the country. But how come our rivers are getting dirtier by the day? The explanation is quite simple that most environmental quality students (or better) worth their salt can understand - Standards A and B only measure the CONCENTRATION of the effluents i.e. the BOD, COD, Ammoniacal Nitrogen, TSS, Heavy Metals etc. BUT the true parameter of effluent discharge should be the LOAD (Flow or discharge rate x concentration) -  is not measured or enforced.

Environmental Quality Report 2013 (DOE, Malaysia)

The present compliance of the discharge concentration also does not consider the  cumulative (or additive) impacts of the industrial and domestic wastewater being discharged into a single watershed. This situation and the absence of a water quality model for that particular river will disallow for us to target a river classification for that river i.e. Class I, II, III, IV or V.

National Water Quality Standards (Malaysia)

Complaints from villagers in the Sg Sepetang watershed, specifically from Kg Dew, Kamunting brought me to the place and made me do a investigation of the water pollution issues.

Sg Sepetang is a tidal influenced river with a relatively small amount of fresh water influx. Mangroves trees and nipah palms lined the banks from Kuala Sepetang until Kg Dew. River fishing especially for the Udang Galah (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) is an important resources for the locals and about 6 or so years ago, ecotourism in the form of firefly tours became an important source of income to some locals. Local boatmen usually take tourists Sg Sepetang between 7 to 10 pm at night to view the one of the wonders of Nature - congregating fireflies synchronizing the flashing of their mating lights.

Pteroptyx tener in Sg Sepetang (Photo credit: Selamatkan Sg Sepetang FG Page)

A Local Fisherman from Kg Dew showing Some Shellfishes Harvested from Sg Sepetang

Shellfishes (Kepah) Harvested from Sg Sepetang
Crabs Caught in Sg. Sepetang
Recreational Fishermen Fishing for the Udang Galah in Sg Sepetang (Photo Credit:

Udang Galah (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) (Photo credit:

Conflicts in the land use are inevitable, there are a several shrimp farms, which discharge their wastewater into Sg Sepetang as well as oil palm plantation being planted right into the river's edge - even some Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) trees, the "home" for the Pteroptyx tener fireflies were cut down to make way for the oil palm plantations.

One of the Few Shrimp Farms in Sg Sepetang watershed

Cultured Shrimp Harvest, Sg Sepetang

There is also a major industrial area upstream, the Kamunting Industrial Area. There are many industries situated there but the most prominent being the Silverstone Tire Factory and Latexx Partners Sdn Bhd, a glove factory. There are now three Latexx plants in operation but Factories 4, 5, 6, 7 are now currently being built and will be in operation soon.
One of the Many Latex Partners Glove Factory, Kamunting Industrial Area

The effluent discharge are supposed to "comply" with Standard B i.e. BOD at or below 50 mg/L and COD at or below 100 mg/L but my laboratory analyses indicated non-compliance with BOD at 64 mg/L and COD exceeding 200 mg/L. But the discharge of the effluent into the drain (which flows through Kg Pak Dollah before discharging into Sg Malai about 3.5 km away) is at 3 L/s and the drain became anoxic about 1.6 km away.

Effluent from Latexx Partners Sdn Bhd
Video of the Discharge
The fishermen in Kg Dew complained that the Udang Galah  catch has dropped drastically and they are worried the effluent from Latexx Partners Sdn Bhd as well as other factories from the Kamunting Industrial Area will affect and eventually kills of the Cyclotropis carinata snail, which is crucial to the life cycle of the Pteroptyx tener fireflies.
Cutting from the local papers
"40 Fishermen Affected"

So, we called in Aduan Rakyat TV3 to do a coverage on the issue of the pollution of Sg Sepetang on 8 and 9 April.

Pak Wahab, a local fisherman being interviewed
Yusri, a Ecotourism Guide being interviewed

On Sg Sepetang

Pak Wahab sampling the wastewater

In Situ Reading at 1.6 km from the the Discharge Point 2.4 km away from the Discharge Point

Confluence with Sg Malai - about 3.2 km away

1 comment:

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Gunung Ledang, 21 February 2010

Gunung Ledang, 21 February 2010
On the Peak of Gunung Ledang after the MNSJ Strategic Planning

Malaysian Nature Society, Johor Branch


I am the present Chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society, Johor Branch (MNSJ) (2010-11) and was duly elected as the President of the Malaysian Nature Society at the 63rd AGM at Taman Rimba Lagenda Ledang, Tangkak on 25th Sept. 2010. It is MNSJ's standing policy to engage directly with the relevant Federal and State agencies/departments on issues related to Nature and the Environment. This non-hostile approach is more effective than the hostile "in your face" attitude but we would have our say if necessary.


About Me

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Skudai, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
I am an academician in Universiti Teknologi Malaysia situated in the southern state of Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. My fields of expertise are watershed management, water quality and water quality modeling. I did my B. Sc. and M. Sc. at the University of Iowa (1978 - 83) and worked for the Department of Environment (DOE) until 1990, when I joined UTM and later did my PhD in Watershed Science at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. I was the Chairman of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor from 2006 - 2011. I was the President of the MNS from 2010 to 2014.