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Questions remain in toxic spill

Questions remain in toxic spill

Local environmental group calls for test results to be publicised.

ENVIRONMENTAL activists have demanded answers about the reopening of a chemical factory that spilled liquid waste into waterways in Kandal province.

The factory, owned by MH Bio-Energy Group, closed its doors for nearly a month following the spill in August that villagers say killed thousands of fish in the area, but was allowed to reopen last month.

Yean Ly, director of the Association for the Protection and Development of the Cambodian Environment, said Thursday that it was “unfair” that the government had allowed MH Bio-Energy to reopen its processing plant despite reports that the factory runoff had damaged local fisheries and human health.

He also called on the government to release the results of toxicity tests conducted in the area, saying the factory’s doors should have remained closed until the exact nature of the spill was apparent.

“The government staff brought wastewater to the laboratory, but until now they have not allowed the results to be made public,” he said.

“The government should release the laboratory results so that people can understand about the level of toxins [and how] the waste has affected their human health before allowing the company to resume their production,” he said, adding that some toxins can remain active in water environments for more than 10 years.

Lonh Hell, director of the Department of Pollution Control at the Ministry of Environment, said he was too busy to comment Thursday, but Sam Sathya, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration and Legislation Department, said his department had brought the toxic liquid waste to test at the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute.

According to the tests, he said, the water contained low levels of oxygen and unusually high levels of ammonia but no other notable compounds.

“Despite our local laboratory not finding other chemicals in that area of the river, the people are still concerned about how it will affect their health,” he said.

He added that the company – which has offered US$700,000 in compensation to 53 fishing families in the nearby Doung and Krous villages – has also complied by removing the waste pipe from the river.

However, fisheries in the area remain inactive because locals remain concerned about contamination.

“We will not buy baby fish for raising until we receive the information that it will not affect our health,” said fisherman Meas Saron, 41, who has received $700 from the factory management to compensate for the death of more than 600 kilograms of fish.

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