EM technology could clean up rivers in the Klang Valley

KUALA LUMPUR: Bioremediation Solutions Sdn Bhd (Bioremeds) is looking into working with developers and factory owners to clean up rivers in the Klang Valley using Effective Micro-organisms (EM) technology.

"We have been talking to local councils to look into cleaning up a couple of rivers in Petaling Jaya. Response is a bit slow as a lot of different solutions have been offered to the authorities," Bioremeds director of business development Mark Soo told after a talk on "Microbial Technology for Cleaning of Rivers – Sungai Kelian Showcase” organised by the Penang Branch of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) Malaysia on Wednesday, May 5.

The talk was presented by Soo Lee Choo, treasurer of FIABCI Malaysia, Penang Branch and a recognised practitioner of EM) technology as well as a committee member of Penang Government Initiatives for Environmental Management (PGI-EM).

Bioremeds is working with the National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM) to test the effectiveness of EM technology in cleaning rivers.

"We hope to get a full report from NAHRIM in the next couple of months and from there, we can publish the results on the success rate to developers and factory owners. Right now, a lot of people are very sceptical. It's the proof of the concept that is the most important. This is the first time we are meeting with developers in the Klang Valley," said Mark.

Bioremeds is also working on the Zoo Negara lake restoration project, which is a joint effort by NAHRIM, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Standard Chartered bank and Zoo Negara, added Mark.

In December 2008, developer Hunza Properties Bhd, FIABCI and Bioremeds undertook a project to clean up a segment Sungai Kelian in Penang. The project was initiated by the Penang State Government.

Hunza is the first developer in Penang to adopt EM technology for environmental management under its Infinity project, a high-end residential development located next to Sungai Kelian in Tanjung Bungah. The company invested RM30,000 in the environmental management project and provided the manpower.

With the help of the Penang Cheshire Home, St Nicholas Home Penang (residents were paid 10 sen for each EM mudball produced) and Hunza's employees, a total of 30,000 EM mudballs were made, of which 10,000 were thrown into the sludge of Sungai Kelian on March 25, 2009, to kickstart the project.

Subsequently, 1,200 litres of EMAS (fermented EM) were either inoculated or sprayed into Sungai Kelian every 10 days, while 1,000 EM mudballs were thrown into the river every week.

The results were seen in three months and the treated section of the river is now cleared of sludge while the base is filled with beach sand. With the clean environment, groups of small fishes can also be seen swimming, said Lee Choo during the presentation.

"The project is a test run, treating only a half km stretch and it's up to the government to continue the work. Pollution is continuous, so after six months to a year, things will go back to normal. Slowly, people may come to accept the non-mechanical way of cleaning rivers. It's all about the education," said Soo.

The Penang State government, together with the federal government, have already allocated RM500,000 to clean up Sungai Pinang late last year and greater use of EM technology is expected in future as part of the state's river maintenance work, added Mark.

EM was first developed in 1982 by Dr Teruo Higa, a former professor of Ryukyu University in Okinawa, Japan, as an alternative to chemicals in the field of agriculture. Through years of research and experiments, EM was also found to be effective in various fields, including environmental remediation, composting organic waste and treating wastewater.

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