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An aerial view of Sungai Sayong estuary which connects the Sungai Johor and Sungai Linggi. Courtesy pic.

JOHOR BARU: An illegal poultry farm that also makes fertiliser using chicken manure will be shut down by the Johor state government, after it was identified as the source of ammonia pollution in Sungai Johor.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the decision was made following a recommendation made during a meeting chaired by the Johor Water Regulatory Body (Bakaj) today.

The pollution in Sungai Johor, which was caused by the farm located at the border of Kulai and Kluang, has led to the temporary shut down of three water treatment plants since Friday.

The emergency meeting, Khaled said, was attended by representatives from water utility company SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd, Johor Department of Environment (DoE), Kulai Municipal Council and Johor Veterinary Services Department.

“We (state government) will close down the premises... the recommendation will be further discussed at the state executive council meeting this week.

“We have to take drastic measures to prevent this from happening again in the future,” Khaled told reporters after launching the “eRezeki and eUsahawan Bootcamp” at the Johor Baru Central Municipal Council hall in Gelang Patah today.

The pollution in Sungai Johor had forced SAJ Ranhill to shut down its Semangar water treatment plant on Friday after ammonia levels exceeded the permissible exposure limit.

The permissible exposure limit for ammonia set by the Health Ministry is 1.5 parts per million (ppm). The ammonia level in Sungai Johor reached 2.75 ppm.

SAJ Ranhill was also forced to shut down the Sungai Johor and Tai Hong water treatment plants after ammonia was detected downstream.

The temporary closures affected about 1.8 million consumers in Johor Baru, Kulai, Iskandar Puteri and Kota Tinggi.

An SAJ Ranhill spokesman said this is the third time its treatment plants shut down this year due to ammonia pollution.

State Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat yesterday confirmed that the pollution was caused by a poultry farm.

Ayub had said the pollution created by the farm caused the three water treatment plants to shut down on July 12 last year, affecting some 600,000 consumers.

Meanwhile, Johor DoE director Datuk Dr Mohammad Ezanni Mat Salleh said the farm was operating without the approval from the state DoE.

“The state DoE previously did not support the approval of the factory in the Preliminary Assessment Site (PAT) to proceed with the project in the area.”

“After last year’s ammonia pollution, a meeting was conducted with all stakeholders and the DoE had recommended for the factory to be relocated.

“However, no action was taken,” he said, adding that the premises fell under the purview of the Veterinary Services Department.

Johor Veterinary Services Department director Dr Dr Aida Muhid, however, said ths was not a “clear-cut case” as the department was not informed of the plan to construct a fertiliser component at the farm.

“Initial checks revealed that a licence was given to the farm to rear livestock on one plot of land.

“But the fertiliser processing plant, which may have opened more recently, is located on a different plot of land. There is no permit for this plant,” she said when contacted.

Dr Aida assured the public that her department will continue to monitor the premises to prevent untoward incidents.

Two of the three affected water treatment plants resumed operations at about 7pm yesterday.

SAJ Ranhill corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil water supply is expected to return in stages.

The Tai Hong plant, which is operated by Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB), remains closed.

Jamaluddin said he expected the plant to resume operations by tonight.

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