Chemical Spill May Have Killed 34 Tons of Fish Gone to Market

Thousands of kilograms of fish that may have died in a chemical spill in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district have been sold off to the public in local markets, a fish breeder said yesterday.

More than 30 tons of fish were killed in the Tonle Sap in what breeders believe was a chemical spill at the bio-ethanol plant of MH Bio-Energy Co Ltd, which was ordered to temporarily halt operations on Monday by the Ministry of Industry.

Vin Chantha, 25, said at her home in Prek Pnov commune’s Doung village yesterday that many of her fish had died, and she had to sell them for a lower price at a market in Kilometer 9 in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district.

“1,830 kg of fish in my farm have died,” she said, adding that she could sell live fish for 6,000 to 7,000 riel per kg, but when they are dead, they only fetched 2,500 riel at the market.

“When the fish are dead I brought them to the market,” she said.

Keo Pituo, office director for the district’s department of fisheries, said yesterday that more than 30 fish-breeder families had come to his office to complain.

“Fish farmers come to register their complaints,” he said, adding that officials have not yet determined why the fish had died. “Thirty-four tons of fish have died in total,” he added.

Dr Sok Touch, director of the communicable disease control department at the Ministry of Health, said yesterday night that he could not comment on the fish kill, other than to say that such fish should be tested in a laboratory to determine if they are a danger to health.

Oeur Sarom, 52, said that he lost nearly one of two tons of fish in his farm over the past few days, and hopes the government will make MH Bio-Energy pay compensation to the villagers. “I am in debt from buying food to raise fish,” he said.

Sor Pao, senior manager of MH Bio-Energy, said that the company submitted its request yesterday afternoon to begin operating again to the ministry and was awaiting a reply. The plant converts dried cassava into ethanol.

“I don’t have any idea to speak for the [fish deaths]. We don’t have the facts,” Mr Pao said.

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