KUTAI KARTANEGARA, EAST KALIMANTAN: Authorities in Kutai Kertanegara have issued a ban on the consumption of water from the Tenggarong River after they found a huge concentration of contaminants, Jakarta Globe reported.

“There is a big possibility that mining companies at the upstream and downstream of the [Tenggarong] river are contributing to the pollution,” Kutai Kertanegara environment agency chief Akhmad Taufik Hidayat said. “We can examine it from its color which is brownish-white. This is unlikely to be due to mudslides from the rain, because the color is different.”

Akhmad said a team from his agency was surveying the waterway all the way upstream to monitor mining activities and see if measures to manage toxic waste are being taken by the mining companies in the area.

Several major coal-mining companies operate in the upstream areas of the Tenggarong River, including Multi Harapan Utama and Tanito Harum.

Akhmad said his team was covering a vast area since several smaller streams constitute the river’s water source.

“Therefore, determining the exact origins [of the contaminants]is quite difficult,” he said.

“We are forming a team to conduct the examination, but we have to wait until it rains because it will then become easier to see where the brownish water is coming from. In the meantime we are examining the mining companies’ [waste treatment]facilities.”

The local branch of state water company PDAM has recorded a sharp increase in cloudy appearances in its water supply. The acidity level of the water has also increased.

The PDAM had to reduce its water supply as a consequence, as well as import clean water from other water installations in neighboring areas.

Akhmad said samples had been taken from the water for further research as they try to determine what type of contaminants have been polluting the river.

The outcome of the research may be released as early as next week.

“The contaminated water is not only dangerous to humans but also to fish and animals feeding along the Tenggarong River,” Akhmad said.

The district’s maritime and fisheries agency said that pollutions there has also affected local fish farms.

“The fish have lost their appetites and die within two days because their gills are clogged,” maritime agency chief Armeinadi said.