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No ripples of unease over Pulau Ubin’s water quality issue

SINGAPORE — There are creatures that might prove disruptive to the daily lives of Pulau Ubin residents, such as wild boars and mosquitoes, but water contaminants are seemingly not some of these, especially when residents do not have much information on these microbes.

No ripples of unease over Pulau Ubin’s water quality issue

Crab catcher Quek Kim Kiang demonstrating how water is drawn from the well by his home at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY

SINGAPORE — There are creatures that might prove disruptive to the daily lives of Pulau Ubin residents, such as wild boars and mosquitoes, but water contaminants are seemingly not some of these, especially when residents do not have much information on these microbes.

Despite the latest advisory issued by Government agencies that the quality of the water in the island’s wells has deteriorated, Ubin residents who spoke to TODAY say they have already been taking precautions in ensuring they have clean water, and do not see it as a major cause for concern.

While most of those interviewed make it a habit to boil the water before drinking or using it to cook and wash dishes, crab catcher Quek Kim Kiang, 63, said he had been drinking straight from the well by his house — and he would continue to do so despite the advisory.

“If they can confirm that the water is undrinkable, or can give concrete evidence on how it has been contaminated, (I might listen) … The only thing I’m worried about is the well water breeding mosquitoes,” he said.

A joint media statement by the National Environment Agency (NEA), national water agency PUB, the Singapore Land Authority and National Parks Board, had advised residents to boil well water for at least a minute before consumption, and suggested alternatives such as using bottled water or PUB water from the mainland.

NEA has not responded to questions from TODAY on what contaminants were found in the water. Village chief Chu Yok Choon, 70, said that there are about 20 wells on the island, and several households would share each well.

The prevailing sentiment among the Ubin residents is that they see no real need to change their ways.

Madam Ong Siew Fong, 72, said she boils water for drinking or washing vegetables. “We’ve been living here all our lives, and we’re still fine … We haven’t heard of anyone falling sick because of the water yet,” she said in Mandarin.

She has relied on electric generators for years to pump water from a 2m-deep well by her home at Wei Tuo Temple. The well water is stored in about three large storage tanks for her family, and then channelled to the taps at home.

On occasion, she recalled, the water supply would be affected when wild boars damage the pipes. To mop the temple grounds or water plants, she uses collected rainwater.

Van driver Ong Kim Cheng, 57, said: “We’re used to it … As long as we ensure water is boiled properly, I’m not that scared.”

Likewise, Madam Ng Ngak Heng, 66, a store owner, said she was not worried about declining water quality, though she might order more bottled water for customers, or use it to wash crockery.

For Madam Yeo Hui Qing, 60, who runs a bicycle rental shop, she said it is too costly to keep using boiled water for daily activities such as washing her face. “It might be good if the Government can supply water directly to us, or if they do some water treatment for us.”

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