The strong whiff of odour which plagued residential areas in the north-east of Singapore on Monday has been traced to an industrial facility in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia. Pic by NSTP/ courtesy of Today Online

SINGAPORE: The strong whiff of odour which plagued residential areas in the north-east of Singapore on Monday has been traced to an industrial facility in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that it had contacted its counterpart in Malaysia, the Department of Environment (DOE), for the latter's assistance to investigate the gas-like smell on the same day.

"(The DOE) is taking action against the operator," NEA said in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Friday.

Checks by the NEA and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on factories in affected areas had initially failed to find any anomalies that could have caused the gas smell.

NEA's air monitoring stations in Singapore later detected low and safe levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air.

"VOCs can be human-made or naturally-occurring chemical compounds that easily enter the air as gases from some solids or liquids," NEA explained. "They are numerous, varied and commonly present, and each individual's reaction to VOCs may vary."

Complaints about the odour appeared on online forums such as Reddit and Hardware Zone at about 5pm on Monday. Many netizens said that the smell appeared to be largely confined to the north-eastern parts of Singapore, in areas like Sengkang, Hougang, Buangkok and Ang Mo Kio.

At the time, SCDF deployed its "resources to investigate" and found nothing amiss, and was closely monitoring the situation together with the NEA.

"Our monitoring teams have not detected the presence of Toxic Industrial Chemicals in the air," the SCDF said in a Facebook post.

Air quality levels during the period were found to be well within safety limits.

"Since about 3pm (on Monday), winds were light and there was some convergence of winds over the northern half of Singapore, which might have led to an accumulation of smells in the northern area of Singapore," the NEA wrote in its post.

Similar complaints have surfaced in the past.

In 2013, there were complaints of a "foul odour" in Punggol and Sengkang. An NEA spokesman then said that the smell could have possibly "emanated from palm oil industries".

NEA however ruled out industries near Punggol as the cause of the smell, after inspections of their equipment, processes, operations and records "did not reveal any abnormalities or issues in their operations" that could be behind the "chemical smell as mentioned in the feedback". — TODAY ONLINE

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