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Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 86th Meeting of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 23 July 2001 at 2:30 p.m.

Present:

Mr. Peter H. Y. WONG, GBS, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Daniel M. C. CHENG  
Dr. HO Kin-chung  
Mr. Edward S. T. HO, SBS, JP  
Prof. LAM Kin-che (EIA Subcommittee Chairman)  
Prof. Dennis S. C. LAM  
Mr. Edwin C. K. LAU  
Mr. Peter Y. C. LEE, SBSt.J  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Mr. PAO Ping-wing, JP  
Mr. Otto L. T. POON  
Ms Iris TAM  
Prof. WONG Yuk-shan, JP  
Miss Alex YAU  
Mr. Plato YIP  
Ms. Jessie WONG (Secretary)  




Absent with Apologies:
Mr. Barrie COOK
Prof. Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP
Prof. Peter HILLS
Mr. KWOK Kwok-chuen, BBS
Dr. LEONG Che-hung, GBS, JP
Mr. Michael J. D. RUSHWORTH
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Mr. LOH Ah Tuan



 

In Attendance:

Mrs. Lily YAM Secretary for the Environment and Food (SEF)
Mr. Howard CHAN Acting Deputy Secretary (C), Environment and Food Bureau (EFB)
Mr. Donald TONG Deputy Secretary (B), EFB (DS(B)/EFB)
Mr. Mike STOKOE Acting Director of Environmental Protection (Atg.DEP)
Mr. P K CHUNG Acting Assistant Director (Technical Services), Planning Department
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department
Miss Petula POON Chief Executive Officer (C), EFB
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), EFB



In Attendance for Agenda Item 4

Ms. Annie CHOI Principal Assistant Secretary (B)2, EFB (PAS(B)2/EFB)
Mr. Y C CHAN Assistant Director (Geotechnical)/Development, Civil Engineering Department (CED) (AD(Geo/Dev)/CED)
Mr. Peter WHITESIDE Secretary, Marine Fill Committee, CED (Sec(MFC)/CED)
Mr. George DING Senior Geotechnical Engineer/Marine Disposal, CED (SGE(MD)/CED)
Mr. Steve LAISTER Director, ERM-HK Ltd. (Director/ERM)
Dr. Robin KENNISH Principal Consultant, ERM-HK Ltd. (PC/ERM)

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The Chairman congratulated Dr. Leong Che-hung on the award of a Gold Bauhinia Star and Prof. Wong Yuk-shan on the appointment as Justice of Peace on 1 July 2001.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 85th Meeting held on 21 June 2001

2. Members noted the proposed amendments which were tabled and confirmed the draft minutes subject to those amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising Para. 10 : Briefing by Ms. McCorry

3. Members noted that Ms. McCorry had other unexpected urgent commitments and the briefing would be postponed to the next meeting.

Para. 13 : Realignment of Route 10

4. The Chairman reported that the Transport Bureau (TB) had noted the Council's invitation to discuss the realignment of Route 10. However, as the realignment was still under vigorous review, TB considered it more appropriate to brief the Council when the review was completed.

Para. 52 : Visit to Europe

5. Members noted that the Secretariat would brief the delegation on the updates of the visit programme and other logistic arrangements immediately after the meeting.

 

 

Para. 56 : Opening up of ACE meetings

6. Members noted that the Secretariat was collating information about the practice of other similar committees with regard to opening up of meetings and would prepare a paper in due course. As agreed at the last meeting, the subject would be discussed at length after summer when most Members would be present.

Secretariat

Para. 63 : Informal meeting with Sustainable Development Unit

7. Members noted that Ms. K Y Chang, Deputy Director of Administration, and Miss Dora Fu, Head of the Sustainable Development Unit, had accepted the Council's invitation to have a lunch meeting on 11 September 2001. The Secretariat would inform Members of the details in due course.

Secretariat

Agenda Item 3 : Report of the 60th EIA Subcommittee Meeting (ACE Paper 29/2001)

EIA Study on the Decommissioning of Cheoy Lee Shipyard

8. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reported the recommendation and the views of the Subcommittee on the EIA Study. The Council had no objection to the removal of asbestos-containing materials from the building superstructure of the Cheoy Lee Shipyard before the completion of the EIA study on the understanding that the works was carried out in accordance with the Air Pollution Control Ordinance and that it would not contaminate the ground soil of the shipyard.

Status Report on Sand Dredging at West Po Toi Marine Borrow Area (WPTMBA)

9. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman informed the meeting that the Subcommittee's major concern was the potential adverse impacts of the dredging operations at WPTMBA on table corals in the vicinity. He said that the project proponent had undertaken to provide monitoring and auditing results to the Subcommittee once every two weeks to keep Members informed of the progress of the dredging.

10. The Chairman said that the Subcommittee should not take up the responsibility of monitoring the environmental impacts arising from projects because this should be the duty of EPD. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman agreed with the Chairman and said that the Subcommittee's request for the regular monitoring results was only a way to express their concern over the matter.

11. Atg.DEP said that as the environmental impact assessment for the dredging was conducted before the EIA Ordinance came into operation, EPD lacked the detailed baseline information to compare with the current monitoring data. Therefore, they could not provide the same degree of monitoring as in other EIA studies approved under the EIA Ordinance.

Strategic Assessment and Site Selection Study for Contaminated Mud Disposal

12. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman informed the meeting that the Subcommittee's major concerns on the proposal were:


  1. whether the Government had a long-term policy on contaminated mud management and disposal in Hong Kong;
  2. whether the Government had placed sufficient emphasis on the minimization of mud arising from works projects;
  3. whether there was a genuine need for an intermediate facility;
  4. whether the Government should pursue contained aquatic deposal (CAD) or confined disposal facility (CDF) for the disposal of contaminated mud; and
  5. whether the scope of the EIA study should be confined to one site only.
Because of the above concerns, the Subcommittee had invited the project proponent to attend the meeting for further discussion.

13. A Member enquired what exactly were the changes "that had considerably reduced the certainty of the forecast of contaminated mud arising" as stated in paragraph 8 of ACE Paper 29/2001. He also referred to paragraph 7 regarding the Subcommittee's preference to "leave contaminated mud in place as far as practical" and asked whether the proposed intermediate measure required transfer of mud to a permanent site. In response to that Member's first question, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the project proponent could provide detailed answers under the next agenda item. On the second question, the EIA Subcommittee Chairman explained that the Subcommittee's preference reflected its wish to minimize dredging and mud arising, thereby reducing the demand for more disposal facilities.

14. DS(B)/EFB said that according to the estimation of WB and CED, the capacity of the existing contaminated mud disposal facility would be used up by 2007. Despite the efforts of minimizing the mud arising, there would still be a need for disposal facilities to cater for unavoidable works like marine channel maintenance, etc. Though CED had commissioned a study to identify a long-term solution, such facility could not be ready until 2010. There was a need for an intermediate facility to tackle the mud arising between 2007 and 2010.

15. SEF noted the Subcommittee's concern. She believed that the works departments would resort to dredging only when there was no other practical and reasonable alternative. As regards the long-term strategy, she indicated that it was within the policy area of Works Bureau (WB) but EFB would work closely with WB and maintain a balance between infrastructural development and environmental protection.

Agenda Item 4 : Strategic Assessment and Site Selection Study for Contaminated Mud Disposal
(ACE Paper 29/2001)


16. The Chairman welcomed AD(Geo/Dev)/CED, Sec(MFC)/CED, SGE(MD)/CED, Director/ERM and PC/ERM to the meeting.

17. In response to a Member's question, Sec(MFC)/CED said that a number of changes that had considerably reduced the certainty of the forecast of contaminated mud arising had taken place. The major change was that a new scheme for testing and classifying dredged mud was recently implemented. The scheme made use of biological screening in addition to chemical screening. Mud arising from projects started in 2001 onwards was being tested under this scheme and a database of the test results would be built up for reference. Drawing reference to the biological screening results on samples obtained from the existing contaminated mud pits, he anticipated that a large amount of mud which had been previously classified as contaminated mud would prove to be harmless through the biological screening. That said, he could not be certain of the future arising of contaminated mud until more test results based on the new scheme were available.

18. A Member asked whether the proponent could expand the proposed intermediate facility to cater for the demand beyond 2010. If not, it would seem to be a waste of efforts to build a facility that would only be used for four years (2007 - 2010). He also queried the need for an intermediate facility if a CDF would be built in 2010. He asked whether the Administration could speed up the study as well as the procedures of the long-term strategy. Furthermore, he pointed out that since a CAD at Airport East was not an ideal option, searching for a more ideal site for CDF as a long-term strategy would appear to be more environmentally desirable.

19. In response to that Member's queries, Sec(MFC)/CED said that the proposed CAD would consist of a series of small pits which would provide flexibility in receiving increased amount of mud. As regards CDF, Sec(MFC)/CED said that it would take a much longer time to plan and construct because firstly, the amount of mud to fill in the dike must be known from the very beginning. Secondly, CDF offered a great opportunity for beneficial after-uses and related co-uses and that required detailed planning in advance. The recent CDF in the Netherlands which would last for twenty years took seven years to construct. Upon Members' request, PC/ERM gave a presentation on CAD and CDF.

20. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry, PC/ERM said that the East Sha Chau site would be the second preferred option for the proposed intermediate CAD facility because the existing contaminated mud pits therein had operated since 1992. The extensive monitoring data of the site showed that the operation of the facility was environmentally acceptable.

21. A Member queried the time required to implement a long-term facility and suggested shortening the process on the one hand and extending the existing East Sha Chau facility for one or two years on the other so as to save the actual costs and efforts. In response, Sec(MFC)/CED said that it was unlikely to speed up the process for building a long-term facility. If the Administration did not start working on the intermediate facility, Hong Kong would face a risk of running out of disposal capacities for contaminated mud.

22. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Sec(MFC)/CED said that the disposal cost for CDF was approximately three to four times higher than that for CAD.

23. A Member said that cost was the deciding factor for this kind of works project. He asked whether it was possible to recycle dredged mud to further minimize the amount to be disposed of. In response, Sec(MFC)/CED said that there were mainly two sources of contaminated mud. One was from unavoidable works like maintenance of harbour and the other was from development projects like reclamation. After minimizing the dredging for the latter case, the mud arising from the former still accounted for 50% of the total mud arising, which must be disposed of somewhere.

24. The Chairman noted that the sites in southern waters were ruled out and asked whether the sites could in any way be reconsidered. Sec(MFC)/CED explained that the major problem associated with those sites was that the water was so deep that there was a greater chance for the contaminated mud to be carried away by tidal current in the course of unloading into the seabed. He noted at the last Subcommittee meeting that Members had reservation on studying only one site under the EIA study. In view of this, he undertook to revise the scope of the EIA study to cover the whole area of East Sha Chau and Airport East and recommend the best location for the facility.

25. A Member agreed from an engineering point of view that Airport East was a suitable site for the intermediate facility. Having said that, he concurred with Prof. Wong that if the Administration could speed up the provision of the long-term facility, the CAD at Airport East might serve as a contingency measure only.

26. A Member said that the Airport West site was ruled out because it was close to the nature reserve in the Mainland. On this basis, she could not understand why the Airport East and East Sha Chau sites which were close to the Brothers which, being the habitat for dolphins, could be accepted. Sec(MFC)/CED, in response, explained that the Airport East site was further away from the marine parks in Hong Kong and from the nature reserve in the Mainland than the Airport West site. In addition, while dolphins liked deeper waters, the water at Airport East was quite shallow.

27. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman reminded the meeting that the focus of concern at the present stage should be whether an EIA study for an intermediate measure would be warranted whilst the long-term strategy was being examined. DS(B)/EFB said that he could appreciate CED's difficulty as they could not take the risk of waiting for the long- term facility which was expected to be ready only after the existing contaminated mud disposal facility had been exhausted. The question would then be whether the timeframe for the completion of the EIA study for the intermediate facility and that for funding the long-term strategy could tie in.

28. In response to DS(B)/EFB's comments, Sec(MFC)/CED said that both studies were expected to complete towards the end of 2002. Unless Members considered the CAD option at Airport East a non-starter for the EIA study, the study must commence at this stage to ensure that the facility would be available by 2007. If eventually the intermediate facility was proved to be unnecessary, only comparatively insignificant cost and efforts would have been spent for conducting the EIA study.

29. A Member suggested that under the EIA study, the proponent should also examine the feasibility of extending the facility to beyond 2010 in the event that the CDF option would later prove to be not suitable as a long-term strategy.

30. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that the Subcommittee did not consider the CAD option at Airport East a non-starter for the EIA study on the understanding that the project proponents would carry out EIA studies for other options and sites if eventually the CAD option at Airport East was not recommended by the EIA report. A Member concurred with the EIA Subcommittee Chairman but urged the Administration to expedite the study process of the long-term strategy. He also suggested that the proponents should assess the environmental impacts under different mud-growth scenarios so as to facilitate the Council's consideration.

31. The Chairman concluded that the Council had no objection to the proponent's proceeding with the EIA study for the proposed site and option but the proponent should keep all sites and options open as far as practicable and speed up the study on the long-term strategy.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business

Tentative items for discussion at the next meeting

32. Members noted that Ms. McCorry would conduct a briefing on marine resources in Hong Kong at the next meeting.

KCRC's appeal on the Spur Line project

33. In reply to a Member's enquiry, the Secretary said that the Secretariat had not yet received any indication from the EIA Appeal Board about when the judgment of the appeal would be available.
[Post-meeting note : the EIA Appeal Board handed down its judgment on 30 July 2001.]
 

34. The EIA Subcommittee Chairman said that as the judgment would have implications on the EIAO process and probably also on the work of the Council, he asked whether there was a need for the Council to convene a meeting to deliberate issues arising from the judgment. The Chairman said that it would depend on the judgment. While there were merits to convene a meeting he preferred not to react too quickly as the authorities concerned would need time to examine the implications on the EIA mechanism. Atg.DEP agreed with the Chairman and said that EPD would brief the Council as and when appropriate.

35. The Chairman said that in the meantime Members should not make any comment on the appeal on behalf of the Council when they were approached by the press.

Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

36. The next meeting was scheduled for 27 August 2001.

ACE Secretariat
August 2001

EPD


 

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