Study Finds Chemical Contamination at Riau's Siak River

4 July 2022 09:24 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta A team of researchers from the Nusantara River Expedition (ESN) in its latest finding revealed that the Siak river located in Riau is contaminated not only by microplastic waste but also by chemicals such as chlorine and phosphate. 

The field research jointly acted by ESN along with Riau State University student's environmental group and NGO Telapak in Riau was conducted from July 1 to July 3. Siak is one of the longest rivers in the Province of Riau with an approximate length of 310 kilometers. 

"The results of the measurement of the water quality test show that the free chlorine content of the Siak River has exceeded the Government Regulation (PP) 22/2021 quality standard, in several locations the phosphate level was above standard which is quite high," ESN researcher Prigi Arisandi wrote in a statement on July 3. 

He elaborated that the water samples that were collected and studied came from six headquarters at Siak II Bridge up to Siak Hilir Tanjung Rhu. All of which revealed that Siak river’s chlorine levels were at 0.9-0.16 ppm with a maximum quality standard of 0.03 ppm. Meanwhile, for phosphate, the figure reaches 2.5 ppm with a quality standard of 1 ppm.

Prigi asserted that chlorine and phosphate pollution pose a  public health hazard and has a great impact on the environment. Chlorine, he added, which is often used as a disinfectant can react with organic compounds in the waste in the water and create carcinogens.

The origin of the chlorine exposure is thought to come from the paper industry, household waste in the form of clothing bleach, disinfectant, and herbicide additives that are widely used in oil palm plantations.

He explained that chlorine chemicals can enter the human body through three routes, namely through ingestion and skin contact or dissolution. "Direct contact through the skin with chlorine is irritant, so the effects are skin, eye, and upper respiratory tract irritation," he said.

As for phosphate, he believes this is due to the waste from fertilizer runoff from agriculture activities, human waste, animal waste, soap wastes, vegetable processing, as well as pulp and paper industry activities in the vicinity of the Siak River.

"The high concentration of phosphate levels in waters that have exceeded the quality standard can certainly result in decreased water quality and could cause the extinction of various fish species in Siak," said Prigi, "The results of the microplastic content test in the Siak River showed that 73 percent of microplastic fiber or threads dominated, compared to 19 percent of filament, 7 percent of fragments, and 1 percent of granules.”

Siak River crosses the Kampar Regency, Pekanbaru City to Siak Regency. This river is still used by some people for daily needs such as washing and bathing. This river was once recorded as the deepest river in Indonesia with a depth of 30 meters before silting causing its depth to reduce to 20 meters. 

M JULNIS FIRMANSYAH

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