Thursday, 22 April 2010

Health complaints lead officials to close KCham battery plant

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 22 April 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

OFFICIALS in Kampong Cham province on Wednesday ordered the closure of a Memot district factory created to melt down batteries for the production of lead, after members of more than 100 families living nearby said pollution emitted by the factory had negatively affected their health, the governor of the district said Wednesday.

Chek Sa Om said local officials had met to discuss the matter on Wednesday and had decided to revoke the factory’s licence.

“More than 200 families from two nearby villages have been affected by the smog coming out of the furnace, which uses acid to melt batteries for lead—which produces an unpleasant smell,” he said. “Villagers requested that we stop that furnace from operating. We could not object to their request, so we decided to close it down.”

He said that public health experts had previously been sent to examine the factory’s furnace as well as the health of local villagers, and had determined that the furnace was emitting harmful pollutants.

“The furnace operators didn’t object to shutting down after we came to them with what we found, because they acknowledge that the smog they were producing was the cause of these problems,” he said.

Factory manager Bin Kea could not be reached Wednesday.

Chork Roth, one of the residents who complained to the government and NGOs, said local villagers had reported a wide range of health problems that they attributed to the factory, which began operating its furnace four months ago.

“The smog mingled with the air, which made villagers suffer from shortness of breath, tension in the chest, vomiting, skin allergies, stomach aches and diarrhea,” Chork Rath said. He added that residents had not reported these ailments with any regularity before the furnace began operating.

Neang Sovath, the Kampong Cham coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said his organisation had received requests from more than 100 families asking for assistance in shutting the furnace down.

He added: “Experts and all officials involved should be careful when considering issuing operating licences to any projects or companies because they could potentially harm the environment and the health of residents in a bad way.”

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