Worsening water pollution in Sandakan.

SANDAKAN:  Future Alam Borneo (FAB) recently launched one of its floating litter traps at Kg. Berhala, as part of their Sandakan Plastic Solutions Project, to document the types of rubbish being thrown into the sea.

While another unit awaits its official launch, FAB also studied the communal waste situation at Kg. Sim Sim via independent laboratories, to better understand the impact of ‘invisible waste’.

As an environmental effort supported by community partners Yayasan Hasanah and Dutch NGO Clear Rivers, the year-long project looks at the problems in depth and offers community-scale solutions, with a view to educating the public on the larger health and environmental risks of this chronic rubbish habit among Sandakan’s communities.

Anton Ngui from FAB shared, “The preliminary results from these recent activities present a very worrying picture of the pollution situation along Sandakan’s coastline.

“Collection from the first week of the litter trap revealed huge amounts of polystyrene food packaging boxes and mineral water bottles. Both items are impossible or very difficult to recycle or reuse”. 

Photo by Lucien Wanda on Pexels.com

Water and sediment tests that were carried out at Kg. Sim Sim showed deposits that were harmful to human and marine ecosystem health. Using the Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), plastic polymers of Nylons, Latex/Nitriles, HDPE, LDPE, PET, Polyurethane, Cellulose Acetate and Acrylic were found in the samples.

The sources of those microplastics were likely ropes, nets, tyres, plastic bags, bottles, coatings from wires and other household appliances; items that can often be seen strewn about the village. 

Coliform bacteria tests were also part of the study. Results revealed fecal coliform and E.coli bacteria, especially within the vicinity of the houses, to be highly elevated. 

Fecal coliform and E.coli counts were, over 200 times and 9 times respectively, more than recommended levels set by the Malaysian Marine Water Quality Standards (MMWQS).

This could be attributed to the fact that Sabah’s water villages do not have any sewerage systems installed and household waste water is discharged directly into the sea.  

The consequent impact of these waste streams to the natural environment, and of course marine life that communities rely on, cannot be underestimated.

And more so during this pandemic year when people have been spending more time at home and purchasing more consumable goods using single use packaging.

Though the study was just a general analysis, the evidence pointed to a latent but growing health problem. 

Anton added, “Producers of PET mineral water and single use packaging, especially polystyrene food boxes, should be aware that in their pursuit of commercial profit, they have to share some of the responsibility for the pollution now created.”


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