Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wind during storm that damaged Lim Chu Kang farms on Friday hit 133kmh, the strongest since 2010, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Wind during storm that damaged Lim Chu Kang farms on Friday hit 133kmh, the strongest since 2010, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Wind during storm that damaged Lim Chu Kang farms on Friday hit 133kmh, the strongest since 2010

SINGAPORE - The strongest wind gust in eight years was recorded during Friday's thunderstorm which wrought damage to several farms in Lim Chu Kang.

Wind speed hit a high of 133.3kmh in Tengah at 3.50pm on Friday (March 30), said the Meteorological Service Singapore on Saturday.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded at our islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010," it said. Meanwhile, the highest recorded wind gust is 144.4kmh, also in Tengah, on April 25, 1984.

Several farms, ranging from a chicken farm to plant nurseries, suffered damage when widespread thundery showers fell over Singapore between 2.10pm and 5pm on Friday. Rain was heaviest over the western parts of the island around Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, said the meteorological service.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, Dr Koh Poh Koon, said on Saturday afternoon that government agencies will support farmers' cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Dr Koh visited affected farms in Murai Farmway near the Lim Chu Kang Cemetery earlier in the day, along with chief executives of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the National Parks Board (NParks), as well as key members of the Singapore Agro-Food Enterprises Federation.

On top of AVA and NParks, Singapore Land Authority and the Building and Construction Authority will also step in to help, said Dr Koh in a Facebook post.

Farms hit the hardest by Friday's storm were Chew's Agriculture, Williton Orchids, Koon Lee Nursery and Goh Swee Hoon fish farm.

Chew's Agriculture was the worst hit, with some chicken houses left "completely flattened", said Dr Koh.

"The farmers shared with me that they now see the unpredictable and damaging effect of more extreme weather patterns on their livelihood due to climate change and are determined to leverage better technology to mitigate against disruptions," he added.

A 38-year-old worker at a plant nursery was taken to hospital for minor injuries.

Mangled buildings and felled trees littered Murai Farmway when The Straits Times visited on Saturday afternoon.

At Chew's Agriculture, stray chickens were seen among the debris which was their home less than a day ago. The chicken farm declined to comment.

A factory employee who declined to be named said the rain, which started before 4pm on Friday, came in "like a tsunami".

"Many chickens died. Some escaped," he said.

Said another worker from Chew's: "Suddenly, the tin houses on both sides of the road started shaking. Everyone went inside, nobody dared to go outside. In 15 minutes, the trees started falling down."

Tucked away in a side alley, Sevenseas Fisheries suffered fewer battle scars than its neighbour. But the fish and frog farm will still need at least two weeks before it returns to its former state, said operations manager Bernard Goh.

The family business had to stop all operations on Friday afternoon when the storm tore through its premises. "Yesterday, we totally couldn't operate at all. We are now trying to rush out some major repairs so operations can run," said Mr Goh on Saturday.

Damage includes broken water pipes and electric cables, cutting off the farm's water filtration system. The automated system supplies fresh water from a larger reserve pond to the farm's fish and frog ponds. It now has to use a handheld pump, which supplies only 20 per cent of the original volume of water.

The storm also ripped the roof off its frog enclosure.

As a stopgap measure, Mr Goh laid wire mesh on the top to ward off direct sunlight. Roof repairs for the enclosure will be done next week.

But Mr Goh is afraid poor weather in the week ahead will spawn a nightmarish rerun of Friday's events.

"We are scared it will rain again today. The weather forecast says it will rain this whole week in the afternoon," he said on Saturday.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: Report, United States News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: Report, United States News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: Report

MIAMI (AFP) - The world's leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process, according to a major study across nine countries published on Wednesday (March 14).

"Widespread contamination" with plastic was found in the study, led by microplastic researcher Sherri Mason of the State University of New York at Fredonia, according to a summary released by Orb Media, a US-based non-profit media collective.

Researchers tested 250 bottles of water in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand, and the United States.

Plastic was identified in 93 per cent of the samples, which included major brands such as Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino.

The plastic debris included polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make bottle caps.

"In this study, 65 per cent of the particles we found were actually fragments and not fibers," Mason told AFP.

"I think it is coming through the process of bottling the water. I think that most of the plastic that we are seeing is coming from the bottle itself, it is coming from the cap, it is coming from the industrial process of bottling the water."

Particle concentration ranged from "zero to more than 10,000 likely plastic particles in a single bottle", said the report.

On average, plastic particles in the 100 micron (0.10 millimetre) size range - considered "microplastics," - were found at an average rate of 10.4 plastic particles per litre.

Even smaller particles were more common - averaging about 325 per litre.

Other brands that were found to contain plastic contaminated included Bisleri, Epura, Gerolsteiner, Minalba and Wahaha.

Experts cautioned that the extent of the risk to human health posed by such contamination remains unclear.

"There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like ADHD and autism," said Mason.

"We know that they are connected to these synthetic chemicals in the environment and we know that plastics are providing kind of a means to get those chemicals into our bodies."


Previous research by Orb Media has found plastic particles in tap water, too, but on a smaller scale.

"Tap water, by and large, is much safer than bottled water," said Mason.

The three-month study used a technique developed by the University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry to "see" microplastic particles by staining them using fluorescent Nile Red dye, which makes plastic fluorescent when irradiated with blue light.

"We have been involved with independently reviewing the findings and methodology to ensure the study is robust and credible," said lead researcher Andrew Mayes, from UEA's School of Chemistry.

"The results stack up." Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer for North America at Oceana, a marine advocacy group that was not involved in the research, said the study provides more evidence that society must abandon the ubiquitous use of plastic water bottles.

"We know plastics are building-up in marine animals, and this means we too are being exposed, some of us, every day," she said.

"It's more urgent now than ever before to make plastic water bottles a thing of the past."

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