Dirty tap water - consumers' rights of redress
I refer to the letter "Send filthy filters to water dept" by Troubled Water (The Star Oct 30).

Sending filthy filters to water department would not be effective in spurring Perbadanan Urus Air Selangor (PUAS) or the former Selangor Waterworks Department to take adequate measure to address the widespread occurrence of dirty tap water in the Klang Valley. At best it will create a lot of publicity but this would invariably help to promote the sale and use of domestic water filters and distillers.

The Selangor state authorities are fully aware of the prevailing dirty tap water problem. But they have contended that it is due to old asbestos cement pipes in Selangor, which are prone to bursting, thus allowing sediments to seep into the pipes and causing dirty tap water. However, water consumers are not convinced that the existing old pipes are the cause, as 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 in 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 "Water Supply Enactment 1997" (WSE '97).

The criteria and standards given in NGDWQ are generally based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) 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 in the Klang Valley, which is turbid, coloured, staining laundry and unpalatable, does not comply with NGDWQ. As to whether the water contains substances harmful to health, it is not possible to tell unless laboratory tests are carried out.

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."

This looks like a tall order for PUAS. 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.

Urgent action by the Selangor state authorities should be the order of the day.

However, if the Selangor state authorities fail persistently to remedy the dirty tap water problem, the affected consumers, through consumer or resident associations, should consider taking appropriate actions against PUAS as provided for under CPA '99.

nakedeyeview.com.my 2007