Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Radioactive waste pollutes Jakarta's rivers: Police

Source: The Jakarta Post

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Radioactive and other live-threatening materials have contaminated most rivers in Jakarta and West Java provinces, the police said on Monday.

Police Forensic Laboratory Chief Brig. Gen. Dudon Satyaputra said the police's recent tests on rivers across the two provinces, showed the levels of heavy metals and radioactive waste exceeded the standards set by regulations.

"We have suspicion that factories and hospitals polluted these rivers because we know that they dump a huge amount of chemicals and radioactive materials. We don't know for sure where they have disposed of their waste so far," said Dudon.

Dudon did not specify how serious the pollution problem was and what kinds of materials, both chemical and radioactive, had contaminated the rivers.

Dudon said the police considered similar tests on rivers outside the two provinces where factories and hospitals were located.

"The disposal of waste into rivers does not just happen in Jakarta and West Java. We believe this trend is commonplace nationwide so we will launch an investigation across the country soon," said Dudon.

Several hospitals, however, said their waste disposal facilities had been given a clean bill of health from the Jakarta administration.

Law No. 23/1997 on the environment, Governmental Decree No. 82/2001 on water management and water contamination control ban the disposal of toxic waste into the environment. Derivative regulations have been enforced by provincial governments through bylaws.

However, in Jakarta, at least 1,700 industries are known to have dumped their waste into the 13 rivers that run across the city while dozens of hospitals throw their waste into the rivers, the provincial environment agency said.

An official at the Banten provincial Environmental and Energy Agency said recently polluted rivers in Tangerang and Serang regencies as well as Cilegon municipality had killed some 60 percent of indigenous flora and fauna in the northern part of the province.

Dudon said the police would cooperate with the Atomic Controlling Board (Bapetan) in conducting random check on waste management applied by hospitals and industries across the country without prior notification in a bid to find the real figure of the contamination.

Chandrawati Cahyani, the assistant deputy minister for natural sciences at the Office of the State Minister for Research and Technology said industries and hospitals in the country had disposed of many heavy metals, including mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, as well as radioactive materials, including phorium and radium, to the environment.

"I don't know if they throw their waste into the rivers but these are all very dangerous chemicals that could harm human beings either in a short or long period," said Chandrawati.

She said the materials could cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproduction dysfunctions, and many other diseases to residents who consume the water.

Ministerial Decree No. 51/2004 on water pollution standard issued by the Office of the Minister of Environment sets the maximum levels of mercury, lead, cadmium and copper in seawater at 0.001 mg/L, 0.008 mg/L, 0.001 mg/L, and 0.001 mg/L respectively.