Selayang MP seek assurance for residents’ safety following proposal of Rawang incinerators

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — PKR lawmaker William Leong has urged the Selangor government to assure that the two proposed waste-to-energy incinerators located in Rawang do not pose any health or environmental risks to the residents.

He said residents, parents, students, business owners, and their workers in Rawang have legitimate concerns and are entitled to seek information and to obtain reassurances and guarantees from the state and federal government, otherwise, the application of the precautionary principle requires that the two incinerators have to be relocated or aborted.

“The state government owes an explanation to Rawang residents as to reason why, if the waste-to-energy incinerators do not pose health and environmental risks to the community living next to the incinerators, that municipal waste from Kuala Lumpur is not incinerated in Kuala Lumpur but carried out in Rawang, Selangor.”

Currently, Leong said there are proposals to build two waste-to-energy incinerators in Rawang for municipal solid waste.

He said the first is under the federal government’s Ministry of Local Government Development, is the relocation of the waste-to-energy incinerator with a daily incineration capacity of 1,200 ton, from the original site in Taman Beringin, Kepong Kuala Lumpur to a location identified as “Rawang Land 3”.

This location is within a radius of 1.4 km of KRI Industrial Park, 1.5km and 2km radius to the residential areas of Taman Tun Perak, Taman Tun Teja and Taman Pinggiran Pelangi respectively.

The other location is under the Selangor government, the Sultan Idris Shah (SIS) waste-to-energy green energy plant on Lot 3847 Mukim Rawang, near Batu Arang and Bandar Tasik Puteri. It has a capacity for the daily incineration of 2,400-tons of municipal solid waste.

“Zuraida Kamaruddin, the then minister of housing and local government, on January 4, 2021 in her answer to DAP Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng’s parliamentary question, said that the federal government called off the plan to build the waste-to-energy incinerator in Taman Beringin, Kepong because of objections from the public and Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s development plan for the surrounding area.

“As a consequence the incinerator is to be moved to another location,” he said.

He then asked, the Rawang residents should be accorded the same constitutional right of equality before the law in that the same considerations taken into account by the federal government and the state government to relocate the waste-to-energy incinerator from Taman Beringin, Kepong, as Rawang resident raised similar objections with regard to health and environmental risks as well as adverse impact on the development plan of the surrounding areas in Rawang.

In addition to that, Leong said with the incinerator built in the area, it will worsen traffic ingestion when there is an additional daily 3,600 ton of garbage truckloads added to the existing traffic congestion on the roads in and out of Rawang.

“The federal and state governments, as well as the public should not be distracted by technologies with names such as ‘waste-to-energy’ (mixed municipal solid waste) or ‘chemical recycling’ (processes used to convert plastics into fuel that is then burn) or any name used for incineration process, because regardless of what is being burnt — municipal solid waste or plastics, hazardous or no-hazardous wastes — incineration creates or releases carbon oxides, nitrogen oxides, harmful chemicals and pollutants,” he said.

Leong gave an example of harmful chemicals and pollutants which include air pollutants such as particulate matter which cause lung and heart diseases; heavy metals such as lead and mercury which cause neurological diseases; toxic chemicals such as furans and dioxins which cause cancer and other health problems; and toxic fly ash and bottom ash from the residue of the combusted materials.

“An early transparent consultation with the local communities should be carried out immediately and for full and complete disclosure of all material facts and information to be given.

“In countries that have ratified the Stockholm Convention, incinerators should be designed to meet the Convention guidelines. Facility upgrades and regular maintenance schedules for incinerators must be adhered to.

“(But) due to lack of personnel, equipment and facilities, the monitoring and enforcement of the Environmental Quality Act by the Department of Environment (DOE) on small to medium sized factories have not been satisfactory.

“The DOE’s performance, until now, does not instill public confidence. Therefore, reassurances in a reasonable acceptable form with practical guarantees will be required to be given to the local community that the agencies will be able to carry out the robust monitoring and enforcement of the stringent standards to ensure that emissions from waste-to-energy incinerators will be complied.

“The reassurances have to be reasonable, realistic and comprehensive since Malaysia has not even ratified the Stockholm Convention,” Leong said.

The Stockholm Convention is an international treaty signed on May 22, 2001 in Stockholm and came into effect on May 17, 2004.

The Stockholm Convention provides international guidance on the safe management of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The objective of the Stockholm Convention is to minimise or prevent human exposure to POPs.

The Convention aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollution. It incorporates a precautionary and manufacturer/user pays approach. The guidelines cover waste incineration because this is a potential source of POPs, including dioxin-like compounds.

The 128 parties and 151 signatories agreed to eliminate the production and use of intentionally produced persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins and furans.

“Malaysia signed the Stockholm Convention on May 16, 2002, but to date has not ratified the Convention.

“Without ratifying the Stockholm Convention, how are Rawang residents to be assured that the Stockholm Convention guidelines for waste incinerators will be applied, monitored and enforced for these two incinerators next to their homes, offices and factories?” Leong stressed.

He pointed out that the State government has yet to sign the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act (Act 672) — stringent conditions for the monitoring and enforcement of the standards to ensure that waste-to-energy incinerator emissions are within safe limits in accordance with the European Parliament and Council Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EU dated November 24, 2010 (IED) (integrated pollution prevention and control) or its equivalent.

According to Leong, studies have confirmed that there are legitimate concerns that the emissions released by waste-to-energy incinerators contain toxic pollutants since few old incinerators operated flue gas cleaning systems.

“Modern waste-to-energy incinerators, today in Europe, United States, China, South Korea and Japan are required to meet very stringent emission standards by operating sophisticated systems for cleaning and monitoring flue gases.

“Rawang residents are therefore entitled to know whether in Malaysia, the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act (Act 672) has a sufficiently comprehensive set of standards, the monitoring and enforcement capabilities required to ensure the emissions are within the European Council Industrial Emissions Directive standards.

“It must be emphasised that Selangor has not agreed to sign Act 672. As a consequence, the monitoring and enforcement of solid waste management by the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleaning Corporation (SW Corp) which is to be the sole authority responsible for waste management has no application in Selangor,” he said.

In Selangor, Leong said the current regime is for each local authority to manage waste for their respective areas.

Giving examples of compounds, he said the amount of the compound for illegal dumping under Section 73 of the Local Government Act 1976 and Waste Collection, Removal and Disposal By-Law 2007 is only RM1,000.00.

“This is hardly a deterrent for a waste-to-energy operator of a RM4.5 billion project. This is to be compared to RM100,000.00 fine or imprisonment of five years or both under Act 672.

“Finally, a geological study is requested to determine the suitability of operating the incinerators in the two locations.

“The site location in Batu Arang is next to Open Cast 9 which may have a tunnel complex running beneath the incinerator.

“The area being a previous coal mine may still contain methane or other combustible gases. The tunnels run underneath most of Batu Arang town. The risk of an explosion cannot be ruled out,” he said.

Leong warned that in 2011 there was an underground fire which could not be put out after many days forcing the residents nearby to move out.

He said the site in Rawang Land 3 is also near the Rawang town which was also previously an underground coal mine which may contain similar combustible gases and may have the same danger of fire and explosions.

On August 23, the Rawang Tolak Incinerator (RTI) Network argued that even the latest technology could not ensure the safety of residents or prevent pollution.

The group of residents had on August 19 urged the Selangor state government to call off the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator plant in Rawang.

During the state elections, Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari who was then caretaker menteri besar was confronted by residents regarding the project. In response to this, Amirudin reportedly said the project will undergo prior assessments, including environmental impact assessment (EIA), before the state government decides.