‘Water at dam possibly lead-tainted’

Boniface (right) shows a photo of a solar-powered house at Kampung Rejoi which is submerged after Bengoh Dam was impounded. Looking on is See.

KUCHING: Water from Bengoh Dam may be contaminated by lead from 600 solar batteries used by two now-submerged villages to store solar energy.

According to state PKR vice-chairman Boniface Willy Tumek, the two villages – Kampung Rejoi and Kampung Taba Sait – each had an estimated 300  solar batteries  to store solar energy channelled from solar panels.

“During a learning trip to Ulu Bengoh last week, I was informed by a local resident that two villages among the four  now submerged  after Bengoh Dam was impounded were using solar electricity for power in houses and schools,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

Boniface said most solar batteries, including lithium-ion types, contain lead and all solar batteries used to supply electricity to residential units tend to be heavy and cumbersome, making disposal difficult.

“It is alleged that the estimated 600 solar batteries were not removed from the two villages and are now submerged in water and leaking lead into the water in the dam.”

He pointed out that lead, past the permissible level of five microgramme per deciliter, is extremely hazardous to humans. Among the known effects of lead poisoning are intellectual disability, anaemia, seizure, coma and even death.

“PKR is very concerned with this extremely disturbing, albeit unverified information on the batteries. With the ongoing problem of seepage at Bengoh Dam, the operator of the dam has been discharging water from the dam into the river downstream around the clock.

“The discharged water from the dam is finding its way into the Sarawak Kiri river and into Kuching Water Board (KWB) water treatment plant at Batu Kitang,” claimed Boniface, who is also PKR Mas Gading branch chairman.

He said if indeed the batteries were left submerged in the lake of Bengoh Dam and were now leaking lead into the water, “there is every possibility that consumers of water from Batu Kitang treatment plant have been consuming water contaminated with lead.”

“We strongly urge the Utilities Minister (Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom) and Urban Development and Natural Resources Minister (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg) to disclose what had happened to those solar batteries used in Kampung Rejoi and Kampung Taba Sait.

“The public, especially consumers of KWB-supplied water, have the right to know what is the level of lead and other hazardous matter in the water from the dam and in the water that flows into residences in Kuching.”

Boniface added that should the level of lead and other hazardous matter surpass the maximum permissible, the public would want to know what KWB is doing to minimise the level and to ensure that the quality of water flowing into residences is safe.

State PKR vice-chairman See Chee How was present at the press conference.

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