The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has released a statement dismissing a media report suggesting that it had been using unhealthy amounts of iron in its water purification processes as an “exaggeration.”
Fresh News, an online news service owned by media mogul Soy Sopheap, published an article on March 16 citing an anonymous reader who claimed that a firm contracted by the water authority had been using excess amounts of iron in order to save on purification costs.
The report suggests that collusion by authority officials allowed the firm—contracted to supply polyaluminum chloride (PAC), which prevents the water from being contaminated by moss and other organisms—to use a larger-than-normal amount of iron in the mixture to cut costs.
“In the past one or two years, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has held auctions for equipment and the PAC that is mixed into water to make it clean, and in the auction, they set iron at 0.08 percent,” the report says.
“After the supplying company won the auction, it supplied the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority with [a mixture containing] 0.3 percent iron, without complying with the auction’s technical standards,” it continues.
“When the iron is at 0.3 percent, it mixes with…the moss to become colloidal…but this chemical can cause health problems within four or five years.”
The Fresh News report does not identify its source for the information, describing the individual only as a reader “who knows about the internals” of the water authority.
In its response, the authority does not reject the claims about the iron levels outright, but claims that both levels—0.08 and 0.3—are internationally acceptable for water purification and that neither reacts unfavorably with moss.
“The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority holds that the quality of the water provided to the public has gone through observation…of technical conditions set by the World Health Organization,” the statement says.
“The reader who said that the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has affected its users’ health is exaggerating with an intent to cause social chaos.”