Villagers in Pailin province’s O’Tavao commune say they filed a complaint to the provincial environmental department last week about the alleged dumping of cassava waste by agricultural company Khmer Viniyok Kasekam, prompting a cleanup effort by the company.
Improperly processed cassava can be toxic, and locals yesterday said runoff from the company had killed animals and caused skin irritation among children who had swam in the river, though the firm denied it had intentionally released the waste into the waterway.
“The company dumped the waste, including liquids, into the river, killing fish and some marine biodiversity,” said Roza Filin, 34, an area resident. “It [also] prevents us from using the water from the river.”
Another villager, Mat Slesh, 54, accused the company of failing to make proper arrangements for waste management and dumping refuse along the river bank, which emanates a foul smell.
“Some children got itchy skin all over their body after they swam in the river, and some adults had respiratory issues because they breathed the smell from the rotten cassava waste,” Slesh said.
When contacted yesterday, company manager Ok Samphors, 39, denied villagers’ allegations of dumping waste. He said that his company, acknowledging the environmental risks, had constructed two ponds in which to deposit the waste.
“However, it has rained continuously for a week, so the ponds became full and the waste spilled into the river. The company did not dump it [into the river],” Samphors said.
He added that the company retrieved the waste from the riverbank on Monday after receiving advice from authorities.
Pailin provincial environment department director Kem Sokha corroborated Samphors’s account, agreeing that the incident was unintentional.