The owner of an Alcohol Factory at Nu’u that has become the subject of complaints from nearby residents about the smell has strongly refuted the claims.
Ma Fugen, who owns the Fagu Maso factory, told the Samoa Observer yesterday he does not understand what the complaints are all about.
The complaints were in featured in a Village Voice story titled “Chinese Alcohol Factory worries villagers” published last week, highlighting the concerns about the foul odour it produces. The factory produces the Rice Vodka Strong brand.
Yesterday at the factory, Mr. Fugen explained that one of the reasons for the rise in complaints is because he used to give villagers gifts to keep them quiet but once he stopped giving them gifts, they began to complain.
He added that a lot of the complaints are from former employees he fired.
During an interview last week with one of the residents of the village, Taiasina Taia I’u, he said the smoke from the factory has been the cause of grief for those living in the area for some time now.
“That smoke can’t be right,” he said. “The residents in this area are forced to inhale the toxic smoke every day and it’s a real health risk.
“My children are growing up and it seems like they will have to endure breathing in that smoke for about ten more years.”
Taiasina said he has raised the issue with the owner of the factory.
“I went to ask them to explain themselves and they said that they have approval from P.U.M.A,” he said.
“Compared to cigarettes, the smoke produced from that factory is far worse. And everyone in this village has no choice but to smoke it.
“This can’t be right. That’s a big problem here. “
But Mr. Fugen said the people are afraid of something they do not understand. He said the smell from the factory is new to the villagers and that’s why they are uncomfortable.
“They (residents) are far away and they think they can smell it but they can’t,” he said.
“The smell comes from the rice (fermented), this is the first time something like this has ever been in Samoa and that’s why they complain. This is the first time something like this has been done in Samoa.”
Mr. Fugen denied claims about the factory being a health hazard.
“It’s not bad for the health,” he said.
“Both P.U.M.A. and the Health (M.O.H.) usually come over here and they don’t like the smell but they understand.”
According to Mr. Fugen, the M.O.H. and P.U.M.A. run frequent checks and they have found nothing wrong with the factory.
Despite smoke from the chimney and the smell of the fermenting rice, he insists that there is no health risk posed by his factory.
He said when he first opened the factory; there were hardly any residents in the area.
“But now there are so many of them,” he said, reiterating that people are scared because they do not understand.
Mr. Fugen also refuted claims about producing harmful gases saying his factory only uses firewood provided by the Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’auli Leuatea Polataivao.
“They think that sometimes the new smell is bad for the health,” he said.
“They’re just scared. We only use the firewood. If you look over there it’s the firewood from La’auli, Minister of Agriculture; their family from Savai’i.
“If you ask anyone, all the fire wood is supplied from Savai’i.”
It was not possible to get a comment from the Minister of Agriculture yesterday.