IT has been 13 years since the authorities last inspected Bukit Merah in Perak for radioactive contamination, increasing the fears of locals that they may still be in danger.
Perak Menteri Besar Incorporated (MB Inc) admitted that the factory site in Kg Bukit Merah was last checked in 2006.
This is after The Malaysian Insight reported that residents living less than 100m from the abandoned site are unsure if the area was safe.
They alleged the state government has not informed them if it has carried out periodic checks at the site of the abandoned chemical factory.
They are concerned about Asian Rare Earth Sdn Bhd (ARE, a company owned by Mitsubishi Chemicals), which was forced to shut down in the 1990s over its radioactive waste.
MB Inc in a statement to The Malaysian Insight said the backfill at the plant site took place when excavation activity was completed after the factory was shut down.
“A detailed final status survey was conducted and reviewed by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) and its technical committee.
“The regulation safety declaration was issued by AELB in April 2006.”
The residents’ lives changed forever after ARE began operations there in July 1982 to extract yttrium, a rare earth, from monazite.
Two years after the factory was set up, the villagers found physical defects in their newborns and at least eight leukaemia cases were confirmed.
After the demolition and the removal of radioactive waste, the site of the processing plant was then handed over to the Land and Mines Office in 2008.
Since then, MB Inc is unsure if the office has conducted any check.
The Malaysian Insight contacted the Land and Mines Office but has yet to receive a reply on the status of the site.
Lawmakers in Perak also have no clue if the radiation levels in Kg Bukit Merah are high as the site was last checked by civil society organisations and foreign experts three years ago.
Menglembu assemblyman Steven Chaw Kam Foon told The Malaysian Insight that in 2017, experts came from Japan to check the site and declared the radiation levels high.
“They tested the site (factory) and found that the levels were extremely high.
“Their readings were beyond the safety limits. The experts then took soil samples back to their country for further tests,” he said.
Batu Gajah MP V. Sivakumar also said the site has not been checked since then, adding that he will call on AELB to check it soon.
In 2015, the factory and all its materials together with several thousand tonnes of radioactive waste were removed to a secure facility in Bukit Kledang.
MB Inc said there were around of 50,000 drums of thorium hydroxide residue and around 37,000 drums of contaminated materials, based on the final inventory moved to the new site.
The repository is controlled and supervised by the AELB and maintained and monitored by MB Inc.