GEORGE TOWN - The image of beautiful beaches at Batu Ferringhi was tarnished when holidaymakers unknowingly came into contact with raw sewage while swimming at Miami Beach.
A check by The Star yesterday revealed that pungent brownish water has been pouring into the sea over the last five days from an open manhole across the road, outside the Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) treatment plant.
The water collects in a large puddle before flowing into a gutter and finally draining into the beach via a storm drain a few metres from the Miami Beach Baywatch Tower.
Holidaymakers have been advised to avoid swimming there until the matter is resolved, said Penang Island City Council councillor Syerleena Abdul Rashid who was at the scene.
"The first complaint we received was five days ago.
"Miami Beach is popular during the holidays and many swimmers must have come into contact with the sewage during the recent long weekend," she said, adding that they had alerted IWK but the leak has not been plugged.
Syerleena and fellow councillor Chris Lee Chun Kit were shocked after following the trail of the leak to the storm drain at the beach.
Through the locked gates at the IWK plant, the concrete sedimentation ponds looked dry and overgrown with weeds.
When contacted, Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said the plant's pump motors could have broken down again.
"This has happened before. If the dried-up sedimentation ponds are filled with overgrowth, the plant must have been down for a few months," he said, adding that most of the treatment plants in his constituency used technology that was about 30 years old.
When contacted, an IWK official said they would issue an official response soon.