A group of 53 families in Anlong Pring village, Chhean Loeung commune, Samaki Meanchey district, Kampong Chhnang province, have accused Seu Mao, the owner of a fish farm, of discharging wastewater into a public canal.

On Wednesday, they requested the authorities help solve the matter. Mao has denied the accusation.

One of the protesters, Chea Samath, 46, said on Thursday that Mao owned the farm in question.

Samath said Mao channelled wastewater from the farm into the 2ha canal, affecting the 53 families living along the water’s edge.

She further said the families had previously requested authorities to intervene, but she doubted if the health and environmental impacts of the wastewater was enough motivation for them to put a stop to the practice.

“Every time specialists arrived to inspect the area, Mao stopped discharging the wastewater into the canal. When the specialists left, Mao resumed the practice, so the inspections aren’t working well on the matter.

“The canal is long and 53 families living alongside it have been affected by [the wastewater]. The canal sprawls to three other communes as well, but the wastewater doesn’t affect residents there because they don’t live near it,” she said.

Another villager protesting Mao’s alleged actions, Y Phalla, 52, confirmed that authorities have been asked to intervene in the past.

He hopes to be able to use the canal again once it’s no longer contaminated by wastewater. He said the canal started smelling foul more than two years ago, and people and cattle have been affected.

“The water coming out from the farm smells bad and we no longer use the canal because it also smells bad and carries viruses and chemicals. I’m requesting the authorities to please act to address the situation,” he said.

Village chief Ros Khom said on Thursday the farm sits on 7ha of land, and that Mao owns seven ponds and has always discharged his wastewater into the canal, which runs through the middle of the village.

“I told Mao on several occasions about the negative impacts of his actions. But he doesn’t listen to my words or the commune or district authorities.

“He still turns a deaf ear to their instructions. We want him to build a separate pond to store the wastewater,” he said.

Mao admitted to The Post on Thursday that in 2017, he discharged wastewater into the canal. But, he said, within the last two years, he stopped because he dug a pond on his farm to hold it.

He said wastewater in the canal had been discharged from chicken and fish farms in Kampong Speu province, which borders Kampong Chhnang.

“It is the dry season, so I don’t have water to be discharged. I don’t discharge wastewater into the pond [canal] either. If heavy rains overflow my pond, I can’t stop the flow of wastewater. But I would never discharge wastewater into the canal on purpose.

“I ask the residents to thoroughly examine the root cause. Don’t accuse my farm of wrongdoing. The authorities have inspected my farm before and they haven’t found any problems,” he said.

Commune chief Pol Chan said on Thursday that Mao had been discharging wastewater into the canal for several years before he stopped over the past few years.

The authorities don’t allow him to discharge wastewater during the dry season because there is a shortage of water, he said.

He said after the residents made their claims, he called Mao in to discuss the matter. Mao promised to stop discharging wastewater from his farm and he dug a pond to store it instead.

“The wastewater in the canal is a mixture of the remaining water from the rainy season and fresh rains. But the farm’s owner no longer discharges wastewater into the canal. We are addressing the bad smells,” he said.