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Advisory Council on the Environment

PAPER ON LAND DECONTAMINATION POLICY

(ACE Paper 53/98)
for information

INTRODUCTION

This information paper briefs Members on the existing regulations and practice on the control of land decontamination.

PRESENT LEGISLATIONS AND PRACTICES

The Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (CAP.499)

The Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (EIAO) came into operation on 1 April 1998. The Ordinance applies to all designated projects as defined in Schedules 2 and 3 including decommissioning ones likely to cause land contamination, such as oil depots, chemical plants, power plants, etc. Project proponents should obtain Environmental Permits before commencement of the designated projects. Under this ordinance, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports have to be prepared for all major engineering feasibility studies to facilitate the subsequent issue of environmental permits.

The proponent preparing the EIA report has to consider the historical uses of the project site which may have the potential to cause or have caused land contamination. Such uses cover the above major developments and small operations such as petrol filling stations, car repairing and dismantling workshops, metal workshops, boatyards, etc. In such cases, the proponent will have to submit a Contamination Assessment Plan (CAP) which may include proposals for soil and groundwater sampling and testing to the Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) for endorsement. On completion of the assessment, the proponent will have to report the results in a Contamination Assessment Report (CAR) to DEP, and if land contamination is confirmed, a Remediation Action Plan (RAP) has to be submitted to DEP for approval.

Other legislation / practices

Apart from EIAO, requirements for the proper assessment of potentially contaminated sites and the subsequent remediation can be instigated through the landuse planning and administration process such as imposing conditions through planning permissions under the Town Planning Ordinance.

For the issue of land leases, provisions for land contamination assessment can be incorporated into new land documents. The users of certain types of new operations are required to carry out the assessment, such as oil installation, car repairing and dismantling workshops, petroleum products stores, etc. These two controlling mechanisms built into planning permissions and land documents are particularly useful for those cases not covered by the EIAO.

In May 1978, the Building (Oil Storage Installations) Regulations came into operation giving the authority of establishing a Standing Advisory Committee. The major function of the Committee is to advise the Building Authority (BA) on matters relating to the prevention of environmental pollution and the remedial measures to reduce the associated risks. Licensing requirements are laid down in the Regulations for any person to store any petroleum products in any oil storage installations. As regards demolition of oil storage installations, the Building Authority has issued the Practice Notice for the Regulations with an appendix in which guidelines, procedures for the demolition methods and requirement for a contamination assessment report are given. In the Note, a clear statement of the method of demolition to be employed should be submitted for BA's agreement before or with the application for consent to commence work.

In 1994, EPD published a Practice Note ProPECC PN 3/94 on contaminated land assessment and remediation. The Note sets out the framework for the assessment and remediation process. It also provides an indicative index for interpretation of assessment results. A Guidance Note will be issued early next year on the assessment and remediation of contaminated sites of three specific industries : petrol filling stations, car repair/dismantling workshops and boatyards. It gives guidance for dealing with this type of small but common potentially contaminated sites.

DEP has a programme for restoration of the 13 closed old landfills previously operated by the Civil Engineering Department. The programme will restore these landfills to acceptable environmental standards before the sites are developed for other land uses. The programme is divided into several packages which are at different stages of tender preparation, construction or operation.

The liability of existing land users are subject to the conditions of grant in the individual land leases, which vary considerably. The Common Law also applies to aspects such as strict liability, nuisance, foreseeability and negligence. This is a rather complicated area of the law, but suffice to say that a considerable body of law has been built up over the centuries, although it is not easily accessible to the community-at-large.

Members are requested to note the contents of this paper

Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
December 1998


 

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