Robertson Quay restaurants raise a stink

Robertson Quay restaurants raise a stink

Stench from river affecting business, they claim

 

Jinny Koh

jinny@mediacorp.com.sg

 

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YOU are dining al fresco by the river, tourists at the next table are taking in the tropical night scene, a gentle breeze blows — and suddenly, there is a smell from the river.

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It is pungent and will not go away; and the night is ruined.

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This has been the scene along the Singapore River recently, in particular at Robertson Quay.

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The river’s brackish waters may have needed more cleaning up, but for the past year, the offending smell was akin to a fly in the soup for food and beverage outlets at the quay. Until three months ago.

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Businesses at the quay say the stink has been wafting in daily, instead of once every few days.

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“It’s becoming horrendous, especially after it rains,” said waitress Henrietta Martinez, 19, from the Brussel Sprouts restaurant. “Some customers ask to be moved to a table inside the restaurant.”

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Said Brassiere Wolf senior captain Julie Zainudin, 27: “Nowadays, after the rain, the river turns brown. It is very unsightly.”

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In February, Robertson Quay’s management notified the Public Utilities Board (PUB) of the smell.

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The agency in charge of Singapore’s waterways investigated and found the stench occurred when water levels were low, exposing years of deposits and sediment accumulated along the riverbank.

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“Robertson Quay is upstream and located at the bend of the river. There tends to be more deposits collecting there,” PUB catchment and waterways director Tan Nguan Sen told Today.

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Downstream, the sediments are more diluted. Tenants at Clarke Quay say they can detect a smell, but it’s not very pungent, and customers rarely gripe about it. At Boat Quay, tenants say the pong is nearly non-existent.

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A PUB contractor has carried out works to remove the deposits and sediment at the heavily-silted areas and is monitoring the situation closely. Still, there is a lingering smell; a second round of dredging starts this week, to be completed by the month’s end.

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The PUB has also tried to maintain a high water level whenever possible to avoid exposure of the sediment bed for prolonged periods of time.

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The 15 or so Robertson Quay pubs and restaurants located along the river, the hardest-hit, could potentially play a part to improve the situation if they work with Waterways Watch, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to keep Singapore’s waterways clean and free from pollution through patrols and public education.

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It runs a programme called Friends of the Marina Association, in which participants contribute $120 a year as a form of financial support as well as display the organisation’s pamphlets and posters at their premises.

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But response has been dismal, said Waterways Watch chairman Eugene Heng, 59. “We visited them, sent letters to them, but they were not interested,” he said.

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There are only four Friends of the Marina despite efforts to reach out to about 200 businesses. Only one, Japanese restaurant Sangokushi Ryoriya, is on Robertson Quay.

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Red House Seafood Restaurant manager Peter Chang, 58, told Today the fee should be borne by the quay’s strata management. “We pay them a monthly maintenance fee (of close to $10,000), so, this should come under them,” he said.

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For residents living along that stretch, the smell seems less of a bother. River Place is one of three condominiums located along the river and resident Maria Eugenia, 46, said she only catches a whiff of it occasionally, when she is on her way home or out.

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“But I don’t smell it every day, so, it’s not that much of a problem for me,” she said.

 

Source: Today Newspaper

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