Malaysians especially Penangites are concerned over the contamination of E.coli that caused the murkiness of the Batu Feringghi sea front and its stretch of beaches, following a report of contamination due to sewage waste as well as coastline erosion.

Penang Water Watch president Prof Chan Ngai Weng said it is very common for the germ to travel via river to the sea and that a major threat would be when E. coli is traced in our tap water that runs through our homes.

Chan who is also dubbed as the ‘water man’ for his relentless campaign for “water awareness”, said to date, there has not been any record of E.coli in Malaysia’s drinking water.

However, E.coli contamination in river and sea water is definitely nothing new, especially in Penang.

Chan also added that the high concentration of E.coli contamination in Batu Feringghi to spread to other parts of the island is inevitable, due to the flow of the sea current.

E.coli is the name of a bacterium or germ that lives in the digestive tracts which includes the mouth, the oesophagus, the stomach, the small and large intestines, and the rectum. There are many types of E.coli and most of them are harmless to the humans although some can cause bloody diarrhoea like the enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). However, the E.coli O157:H7 can cause severe anemia or kidney failure which eventually can be fatal. Other strains of E.coli can cause urinary tract infections.

Sources of wastes from factories, agriculture activities, life stock farming, areas like squatters and even wet markets are some of the causes of contamination. All due to the lack of proper waste water management.

However, Chan said, people’s attitude towards paying their dues to ensure proper water and waste management is the number one cause of this ordeal.

Chan also stated that the challenge for all parties now is to come up with a solution that is effective and that there’s no stopping contamination from spreading further in the sea.

"Even when proper waste management is crucial, good personal hygiene is the most important practise for all," he said.

Chan also advised people to drink only boiled water and to refrain from swimming or be in contact with polluted river water or sea water.

"Preventive measures are definitely better than cure," he added.