Consider law suit against PUAS for dirty water

The original title of this article is Dirty water, Consumers’ right of redress

I sympathise with Writer Tak Puas and other water consumers in the Klang Valley who are at a complete loss what to do with the dirty tap water problem.

Though Puas is aware of the prevailing dirty tap water, they contend that it is due to old asbestos cement pipes which are prone to leaks, thus allowing sediments to seep into the pipes that results in dirty tap water.

However, many water consumers are not convinced that the existing old pipes are the cause. In the area where I stay in Petaling Jaya which is about 35 years old, the quality of water is still quite acceptable but it is not so in newer areas like Damansara Utama and Kelana Jaya. Also, other states, having the same old pipes, are not similarly affected. Why just in the Klang Valley?

There are standards and rules existing in Malaysia and the state of Selangor governing the supply of water to consumers. The more relevant ones are “National Guidelines For Drinking Quality” (NGDWQ) 1983 issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Selangor’s “Water Supply Enactment 1997” (WSE ‘97).

The criteria and standards given in NGDWQ are generally based on the World Health Organisation Drinking Water Quality Guidelines, 1982. Amongst other requirements, NGDWQ states: “Drinking water must be clear, colourless and odourless. It must be pleasant to drink and free from all harmful microorganism, chemical substances and radionucleides in amounts which could constitute a hazard to the health of the consumers.”

Clearly, the present quality of tap water supplied to many areas in the Klang Valley, which is turbid, coloured, staining laundry and unpalatable, does not comply with NGDWQ.

WSE ’97 is the law regulating public water supply in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Under WSE ‘97, it is mandated that the Director of water supply and other officers shall carry out such functions and duties to protect the interests of the consumers in respect of, amongst others, “the quality of water and the water services provided.”

If consumers experience dirty tap water once in a while, it may be tolerable. But it is unacceptable if it happens on a daily basis as experienced now by many consumers in the Klang Valley. There is therefore a total neglect of duty on the part of public officers to provide wholesome water supply to millions of water consumers in the Klang Valley.

From all the above, it is apparent that PUAS has failed to ensure that the water supplied to consumers is wholesome and fit for human consumption. Also the Selangor state authorities have failed to take appropriate actions to ensure that the provisions of WSE ’97 are fulfilled by PUAS.

Water is essential to life and can be considered as a product or a utility within the ambit of Consumer Protection Act 1999 (CPA ’99) which also gives a consumer a right of redress against a supplier of goods or services that fail to comply with quality standards. Therefore, failure to provide or supply water to the standards required under NGDWQ would render PUAS liable to damages in a civil claim under the provisions of CPA ’99.

So, consumers like Tak Puas should consider, through consumer or resident associations, taking appropriate actions against PUAS as provided for under CPA ’99.

More writings on the woes of water supply in the Klang Valley can be found in my website:

A S Toh
25 Sept 2003 2007