Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu is heading a task force to investigate arsenic poisoning in Sungai Rui.
According to a report by The Star, the menteri besar has confirmed the presence of heavy metal, including arsenic, in the river and said that PH levels there were high.
He added the task force first met on March 25.
“From studies conducted, arsenic appears naturally in the Hulu Perak district. The higher content of arsenic in the river could be due to mining activities, soil erosion and farming,” he was quoted saying during a press conference in Ipoh today.
However, despite having yet to establish a connection between the poisoning and logging, the state announced that it was suspending logging activities along Sungai Rui temporarily.
This is estimated to cause a RM30 million loss for the state, The Star reported.
It was reported earlier this month that low levels of arsenic were found in water samples taken from the river back in 2016.
The matter was highlighted by Perak Education, Technology, Science and Environment Committee chairperson Aziz Bari (above).
Aziz had also claimed that there have even been reports of skin cancer among residents who lived near the affected river.
Ahmad Faizal, who is also Chenderiang assemblyperson, said that based on checks conducted by the state Health Department on the residents, including a collection of hair samples from over 300 villagers, it was too soon to link the poisoning of the river to cancer or their skin diseases.
“The Health Department has checked Kampung Air Ganda villagers and they were found to be suffering from skin diseases and they were referred to the nearest health clinic in Hulu Perak for further checks
“[...] I want to make it clear that action had been taken once the matter was made known to the state. We were hush-hush over the matter initially, but sadly the wrong information was given,” he reportedly said.
The menteri besar dismissed suggestions the exco was trying to create panic and affect his administration, saying that Aziz was merely taking action based on his portfolio.