I DON'T WANT THE FISH OWNERS TO BLAME THE FACTORY RIGHT NOW.
FOR the second time in a month, officials have launched an investigation after several tonnes of farmed fish were found dead near a Kandal province village roughly one kilometre away from a bioethanol plant that was briefly shut last year over environmental concerns.
Villagers in Ponhea Leu district’s Prek Phnov commune estimate that roughly 26 tonnes of farmed fish were found dead Monday morning.
The die-off came less than a month after 54 tonnes of fish were reported lost in a mass kill that some blamed on the plant, which is owned by the Korean group MH Bio-Energy.
Officials, however, have yet to point fingers in the most recent case, saying tests must be done on water samples first.
“I don’t know why those fish died,” said Keo Pitou, the Fisheries Administration chief in the district. “I cannot blame the factory, because we haven’t received the test results yet … I don’t want the fish owners to blame the factory right now.”
At this stage, villagers are also proceeding with caution.
The chief of the village, Chav Bun Thong, said villagers have seen no visual signs of a chemical spill in the water.
“My people are not yet strongly complaining,” he said. “They told me if they find that this was caused by the factory, then they will demand compensation.”
Yeang Hoeung, a villager from Prek Phnov’s Doung village, said he suspected his loss of roughly 8 tonnes of fish was caused by the factory, but that he wasn’t willing to make a judgment yet.
“I can’t say I’m 100 percent sure the fish died because of a chemical spill. I am waiting to see the results,” he said.
In mid-March, authorities declared that the bioethanol plant was not responsible for the estimated 54 tonnes of fish that villagers had found dead.
Instead, an Environment Ministry spokesman blamed the deaths on climate change.
“There are no toxins in the river,” spokesman Sam Saroeun said at the time; however, oxygen levels in the water were found to be very low.
In September last year, the factory was closed for 11 days after villagers reported losing roughly 60 tonnes of fish.
Officials found that the facility was producing “bad-smelling liquid and gas waste”.
The company said there had been a spill caused by a broken water-treatment system and offered compensation to 53 families. But it insisted any liquid spilled into the river was toxin-free.