Residents along Street 347 in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district say discharge from a nearby textile factory has flooded their street, spreading a foul stench through the neighborhood and making people and animals sick.
A 15-meter section of the street is covered with stinking blue and black liquid along with both gel-like and solid chemical substances.
Several families living on Street 347, between Streets 528 and 598, now have the floors of their homes covered with the smelly mud, which has narrowed the street itself to about 1 meter, just wide enough for a motorbike to pass. About 300 families in the area are complaining about the mud or the smell.
“I can’t be patient any longer,” said 49-year-old housewife Mou Sarin, pointing to the rash on her foot and another one on the buttocks of her 1-year-old grandson. “My dogs have died. People will die soon.”
“It stinks! It makes me itchy!” complained a man who says he has lived near the canal for two years.
Residents say the mud is coming from PPS Cambodia Limited, a garment company that washes and dyes blue jeans at the factory. The mud flows along an uncovered canal behind a shoe factory to a covered drain. The drain empties into another one-km long uncovered canal that eventually crosses under Street 598 and empties into Pumpeay Lake.
The company acknowledges that its factory created the problem on Street 347, but contends that the complaining families are squatters and that the houses shouldn’t be there.
PPS began operations in 1997. A spokesman said the company discharges 800,000 liters of water daily. But neighbors said they have been told by the area water provider that the company discharges 2 million liters of water daily.
Um Nim, 53, said the company promised last year to haul in soil and raise the street, but that it hasn’t happened. The company recently told Ministry of Environment officials that they would stop the washing and dyeing operation at the factory at the end of June. The company later said it would instead halt washing and dyeing for a couple months while they built an absorption basin.
Ten days ago a company spokesman told the Khmer-language newspaper Koh Santepheap that they planned to move the factory to Stung Meanchey district.
“A few months ago, we fined PPS 2 million riel [about $513],” said Ministry of Environment deputy director of pollution control Lonh Hell. “Now we have ordered PPS to stop [the washing and dyeing operation].” So far the company has not complied.
Chhit Phalkun, 38, has collected thumbprints from 294 families on a petition protesting the company’s activities.
“Before there were fish in [a nearby] pond. Now chemicals and toxic waste is flowing,” he said. “My neighbors who just delivered a baby are sick.”
Asked what he had heard about the treatment basin, he replied: “No one will tell us what they are doing.”
Um Nim said he was tired of seeing no results.
“The company always promises this and that. The environmental officials come and see, and then they go away,” he said.