Chemical-like smell engulfs several parts of Singapore

Lynda Hong Channel NewsAsia 29 Nov 10;

SINGAPORE : MediaCorp received more than 5 calls on its hotline of a bad smell hanging over several parts of the island on Monday.

Calls were received from residents in Hougang, Sengkang, Yio Chu Kang, Ang Mo Kio and and Paya Lebar.

One caller from Yio Chu Kang described the smell as insecticide-like.

Others described it as unpleasant and chemical-like, similar to kerosene or burning rubber.

The callers also said the air looked foggy.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said no toxic gases have been detected so far, and is continuing to monitor the air quality.

Investigations are still being carried out to find out the cause of the smell.

NEA has also contacted its Malaysian counterparts to check whether any unusual smell has been detected in Johor.

Some Sengkang residents said the chemical-like smell started from around 4pm.

"It was like the smell of oil, very heavy. Then, when I looked out of the balcony window, the whole field is full of white smoke," said Sengkang resident Lee Khar Kiang.

"I was at the CC (community centre) just now, and from there it was very smelly. When I came back, the smell was also in my house. So it was everywhere," said Sengkang resident Zuraidah Mohd.

The online community was also abuzz with discussions about the stink in the northeast of Singapore.

Many posted comments on Channel Newsasia's Singapore Tonight facebook page.

MediaCorp also received hotline calls from residents in Hougang and even Ang Mo Kio.

Some told ChannelNewsAsia that this was unlike the haze.

"The smell was too strong... I felt like throwing up," said Ang Mo Kio resident Ishent Kaur.

Police advised the public not to be alarmed and to wait for further updates from the NEA.

- CNA /ls

Smell in the air over parts of the island
Elizabeth Soh Straits Times 30 Nov 10;

RESIDENTS across Singapore were complaining of a bad 'chemical' odour yesterday.

Described mostly as a strong, kerosene-like smell, it spread across the island throughout the day, affecting people from Punggol to Yio Chu Kang and Tampines.

A National Environment Agency (NEA) spokesman said the agency had received about 100 complaints since 5pm about a smell described variously as an 'oil smell', a 'burnt plastic smell' and a 'chemical smell'.

He added that a large number of complaints were first received from residents in the Sengkang and Punggol areas, followed by Seletar Hills and Serangoon Gardens. Some complaints were also received from the Toa Payoh North and Ang Mo Kio areas.

No toxic gases have been detected and the NEA is monitoring the situation.

The agency has also contacted its Malaysian counterparts to check whether any unusual smell has been detected in Johor.

The police also confirmed that it received several calls regarding the foul smell. The public is advised to wait for further updates from the NEA and urged 'not to jam up the 999 hotline', said a police statement.

Retiree Abu Baker Ibnoh, 65, who lives in Sengkang, said he noticed that the air looked foggy in the morning and there was a petrol-like odour.

In Ang Mo Kio, housewife Renee Ting, 43, thought the smell was the result of a mosquito-fogging exercise.

By evening, the odour had made its way to the east, residents told The Straits Times.

Housewife Rachel Tan, 47, first caught whiff of the smell from her home in Tanah Merah around 9pm.

'Within half an hour, my whole house smelled like petrol.'

In September, residents in Sengkang had complained of a stench which was later traced to a 200-tonne mound of rotting food and woodchips dumped at a construction site in Punggol Way.

NEA investigating smell
Esther Ng Today Online 30 Nov 10;

SINGAPORE - Chemical-like, metallic, toxic, burnt - that was how residents in Sengkang and Hougang described the mysterious smell that pervaded their estates at around 5pm yesterday.

And the "large number of complaints" - about 100 in total - poured in from even further, such as Punggol, Seletar Hills, Serangoon Gardens and Toa Payoh North, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said, even as its measurements of air quality detected no toxic gases.

Ms Judith Koh, 30, one of a dozen who called the MediaCorp News Hotline, smelled the odour as she exited onto Jalan Kayu Road from Seletar Expressway. "I initially thought there was something wrong with my car."

A police spokesman advised the public "to not jam up the '999' hotline", though, and to wait for updates from the NEA after receiving "several" calls to the emergency number.

The NEA is investigating the cause of the smell. "NEA has also contacted its Malaysian counterparts to check whether any unusual smell has been detected in Johor," said a spokesperson.

This is not the first time Sengkang residents have had to put up with such odours. In February, they experienced smoky air from bush fires and, last month, a 200-tonne mound of rotting food and wood chips dumped at a construction site emitted a foul stench.

This latest odour was different, some said. "It's metallic and toxic - it's not a smell I've come across before," said Sengkang resident Patrick Sim, 31.

But Sengkang resident Clarence Tey, who lives opposite Johor's Pasir Gudang Port, said it was a "common occurrence" after "heavy rain and a change in the wind direction". Esther Ng

Phew, mystery smell's gone
Straits Times 1 Dec 10;

THE petrol-like stench that enveloped parts of northern and eastern Singapore on Monday dissipated yesterday, but its cause remains a mystery.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday said its officers had been 'inspecting the affected areas to identify possible sources of the smell'.

Its spokesman said the agency was also monitoring the air for the presence of any toxic chemicals, but none had been detected.

NEA also contacted its Malaysian counterparts to check whether any unusual smell had been detected in Johor.

The spokesman said no complaints were lodged with the agency yesterday - a far cry from the 100-plus calls it received on Monday.

A police spokesman also confirmed they had not received any calls yesterday regarding the smell.

On Monday, residents in areas like Sengkang, Punggol and Tanah Merah detected a stink they likened to an 'oil smell' or 'chemical smell'.

Housewife Fiona Chew, 55, who lives in Ang Mo Kio, said she noticed that the foul smell was gone early yesterday morning.

In September, residents in Sengkang had complained of a stench which was later traced to a 200-tonne mound of rotting food and woodchips dumped at a construction site in Punggol Way.

JERMYN CHOW

NEA's investigations into foul smell inconclusive
Channel NewsAsia 2 Dec 10;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) said its investigations into the foul smell detected on Monday have been inconclusive.

However, its findings show that the smell could be from the open burning of materials, or due to incomplete combustion from a "large fuel-burning plant".

NEA said it did not uncover any possible sources within Singapore.

On November 29, residents in the northeast of the island including Punggol, Sengkang and Ang Mo Kio had complained about a foul odour similar to insecticide.

A thick smoke also hung over some estates.

NEA said it sent officers down to the affected areas as soon as possible but the rain had dissipated some of the smell and smoke.

The officers managed to pick up low levels of petroleum-based hydrocarbons with their instruments but no harmful or toxic chemicals were detected.

NEA also said the smell were not harmful to health.

Joseph Hui, who is the Director-General of Environmental Protection at NEA, said the agency receives complaints of bad smells frequently.

"The human nose is a very sensitive organ. It can detect even very low concentrations of odourous chemicals, even when instruments are not able to measure at that low concentration. So that's why sometimes smell complaints are received, but we are unable to establish what the source of the smell is."

The NEA said it has written to its counterpart in Malaysia to ask if they had detected anything similar in Johor, but MediaCorp understands that no such complaints were received.

Patches of petroleum oil were seen near two fish farms off Pulau Ubin on November 30.

NEA put it down to a coincidence, stating that there was too little oil to have generated the smell.

Neither did it explain the smoke.

NEA said it is waiting for Malaysia's response, and will follow up with them if necessary.

- CNA/fa

NEA still unsure of origins of that foul smell
Ho Yeen Nie Today Online 3 Dec 10;

SINGAPORE - The National Environment Agency (NEA) says that its investigations into the foul smell detected on Monday have been inconclusive.

However, its findings show that the smell could be from the open burning of materials, or due to incomplete combustion from a "large fuel-burning plant".

It did not uncover any possible sources within Singapore. The NEA has alerted its Malaysian counterparts. It said it is waiting for their response, and will follow up if necessary.

On Nov 29, residents in the north-east of the island, including Punggol, Sengkang and Ang Mo Kio, had complained about a foul odour similar to insecticide. A thick smoke also hung over some estates.

The NEA said it sent officers down to the affected areas as soon as possible, but the rain had dissipated some of the smell and smoke.

The officers managed to pick up low levels of petroleum-based hydrocarbons with their instruments but no harmful or toxic chemicals were detected. The NEA also said the smell was not harmful to health.

Director-General of Environmental Protection at NEA Joseph Hui said the agency receives complaints of bad smells from time to time.

"The human nose is a very sensitive organ. It can detect even very low concentrations of odorous chemicals, even when instruments are not able to measure at that low concentration. So that's why sometimes smell complaints are received, but we are unable to establish what the source of the smell is."

The NEA said it has written to its counterpart in Malaysia about whether it has detected anything similar in Johor but MediaCorp understands that no such complaints were received.

Patches of oil were seen near two fish farms off Pulau Ubin on Nov 30. The NEA put it down to a coincidence, stating that there was too little oil to have generated the smell. Neither did it explain the smoke.

Mystery swirls around Monday's foul smell
Christina Ng my paper AsiaOne 3 Dec 10;

MYSTERY still surrounds a chemical smell that residents in parts of Singapore complained about on Monday evening.

The foul odour, which many said smelled like kerosene, dissipated later that night, leaving behind many unanswered questions.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that it has not determined the source of the smell, but stated that it was likely to have come from an industrial process that involved incomplete combustion.

Incomplete combustion occurs when there is not enough oxygen for a fuel to burn thoroughly.

At a media briefing held yesterday at the Environment Building in Scotts Road, NEA's director-general for environmental protection, Mr Joseph Hui, said investigations revealed that the smell did not originate from Singapore.

That is because no open burning - like a warehouse blaze, for example - was detected on that day.

There were also no upsets at large fuel-burning plants here that could have produced the smell.

Mr Hui added that no toxic chemicals were detected, and that the smell was not harmful.

He said oily patches were detected near two fish farms south of Pulau Ubin on Tuesday morning, but they were unrelated to the Monday incident.

"It's just a coincidence that (the oil patches) happened the day after complaints about the smell came in," he said.

On Monday, complaints first poured in from residents in Sengkang and Punggol.

The smell was later detected by those in estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Hougang and Tampines.

Thick smoke also hung over some of the affected areas, residents said.

Officers from NEA, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Police Coast Guard were called in to check the areas on Monday.

NEA also contacted its Malaysian counterparts to check whether the smell had been detected in Johor, but it has not yet received a formal reply.

Mr Hui said: "We will continue to monitor the situation and alert the public if we come across unnatural levels of chemicals in the air."

Chemical smell did not originate in Singapore
Straits Times 3 Dec 10;

THE chemical or petrol-like smell that was reported in various parts of the island on Monday did not originate in Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday.

The agency did not identify the source of the odour, but said it will continue with its investigations.

Its findings, however, show that the smell could be from the open burning of materials, or due to incomplete combustion from a 'large fuel-burning plant'.

The agency added in the statement: 'As part of our on-going bilateral cooperation, NEA has alerted its Malaysian counterparts, and will follow up with them through the established channels.'

On Monday, the NEA received more than 100 calls complaining about the smell from various parts of Singapore, including Sengkang, Punggol, Ang Mo Kio and Tampines. The police also received calls on its hotline complaining about the odour.

In the statement yesterday, the agency said it had measured air quality in affected areas. 'No toxic gases in the air have been detected. NEA has further established that there is no negative impact on public health,' it added.

There were reports claiming that the chemical-like stench could have originated from oil patches detected near two kelongs in Pulau Ketam. But NEA said yesterday that this was not the cause.

DARYL CHIN

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