SINGAPORE – Three companies have been fined for illegally dumping toxic and hazardous substances into sewers in Woodlands, Tuas and Pioneer.
This is an offence that risks harming workers maintaining the public sewerage system, damaging Singapore’s used water treatment facilities and polluting the environment, national water agency PUB said in a statement on Monday.
Among the companies charged was membrane manufacturing firm Century Water Systems and Technologies, which had discharged into the sewers high concentrations of dimethylacetamide – a substance known to disrupt Newater production when present in excessively high amounts – instead of engaging a licensed toxic industrial waste collector to properly dispose of it.
Responding to queries, PUB said that in extreme cases, the substance can affect the treatment membranes and cause Newater production to be reduced or even stopped.
In this case, Century Water Systems and Technologies had not disrupted processes.
The company’s offence was discovered during a routine inspection at its premises in Woodlands on May 20, 2022. It was charged in February and fined $3,300.
Meanwhile, two toxic industrial waste collectors, Chem-Solv Technologies and NSL OilChem Logistics, were charged and prosecuted in November 2022.
Between May and September 2021, PUB’s online sensors detected abnormally high levels of prohibited volatile organic compounds in used water discharged from factories in Pioneer.
On Sept 6, 2021, PUB officers conducted a surprise inspection at Chem-Solv Technologies and found that greenish sewage was being discharged into public sewers.
Tests confirmed that the discharge contained eight types of banned organic compounds, PUB said.
It added: “The concentration level of one of these organic compounds, toluene, was dangerously high and could have posed a fire or explosion hazard in the public sewerage system.”
Chem-Solv Technologies was fined $8,500 and ordered to install additional monitoring sensors on its premises.
Separately, PUB’s sampling regime detected abnormally high levels of regulated substances such as heavy metals and boron in public sewers in Tuas between December 2021 and January 2022.
The agency traced these readings to NSL Oilchem Logistics’ premises, collected samples of the firm’s discharge and confirmed the presence of three heavy metals and boron beyond permissible levels.
NSL OilChem Logistics was fined $13,000 for its breach.
PUB said discharge containing excessive concentrations of regulated substances such as heavy metals can inhibit the water reclamation process and cause treated used water to be unfit for use in the production of Newater.
Mr Maurice Neo, director of PUB’s water reclamation (network) department, said: “Used water is a precious resource that is treated and recycled to produce Newater, and our public sewerage system plays a key role in the reclamation process… To ensure that our operations, workers and the environment are fully protected, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any companies caught breaking the law.”
Under the Sewerage and Drainage (Trade Effluent) Regulations, those who discharge hazardous substances face a fine of up to $15,000, can be jailed for a maximum of three months, or both.
Under the Sewerage and Drainage Act, those who illegally disposal of hazardous substances that may pose a danger to the safety and health of people or any part of any public sewerage system, can be fined up to $50,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 months upon first conviction.
Repeat offenders face a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.
PUB said that since its enhanced surveillance and enforcement regime was introduced in 2018, the agency has noticed a drop in the number of offences involving liquid waste related to industrial, business and trade processes.
From 2016 to 2018, on average there were 20 cases yearly. This has decreased to an annual average of five cases from 2019 to 2022.
As part of the enhanced enforcement regime, PUB can revoke approval for discharge, or issue stop-work orders to such errant companies. These orders will be lifted only when the companies implement measures to ensure that the quality of their waste complies with the law, PUB said.
It monitors more than 5,000 companies annually for such discharge containing regulated substances into the public sewers.
Members of the public can report any suspected cases of water pollution or illegal dumping of substances into sewers to PUB’s 24-hour call centre on 1800-2255-782.
Source: The Strait Times