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Toxic plant runoff takes toll on villagers’ wallets

TOXIC waste from a bio-ethanol plant that was shut down – and recently given the green light to reopen – killed more than 63 tonnes of fish worth more than US$100,000 to local villagers, officials told the Post Monday.

At least 57 families in Duong and Krous villages in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district were impacted by pollution from the MH Bio-Energy Group plant, said Seng Thim, Tonle Bassac fisheries office chief.

The total cost of the pollution could change, he suggested. “We have not yet included the impact on the fish resources inside the river itself,” he said.

The government has already given the South Korean-owned plant the go-ahead to reopen, although officials still don’t know exactly what chemical caused the damage.

Preliminary results from tests of the water found increased levels of ammonia and lower levels of oxygen.

Khlaing Vanthol, director of the Chaktomuk Fisheries Administration office, said his officials had taken the water to be tested in Belgium, but that it was unclear when final results would be ready.

But villagers impacted by the pollution are demanding compensation. “We want the company to pay compensation to us soon, after Pchum Ben at the latest,” said Sau Ly, one of the affected villagers.

Sar Peov, head of MH Bio-Energy’s administration office, said Sunday that his company is waiting to receive final statistics of the pollution in order to assess compensation levels.

The plant, which refines dried cassava to produce bio-ethanol fuel, was closed in late August following complaints from villagers that toxic waste discharged from the facility was killing fish in the nearby waterway.

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