8. A Member said that the screeching noise from trams when approaching a station was annoying and asked whether the proposed standards would help improve the situation. In response, PEPO(NP)/EPD explained that the proposals would be applied to newly registered motor vehicles only. However, the Administration was aware of the problem mentioned by Mr. Lau and had been liaising with the Hong Kong Tramways Limited (HKTL) on possible improvement measures. PAS(C)1/EFB supplemented that the major source of tram noise came from frictions with the tracks. The HKTL had implemented improvement measures like smoothening the joints on the track and spraying water on sharp bends. He said that a copy of SEF's recent reply to a question related to tram noise raised by a LegCo Member would be sent to Members for reference.
9. A Member said that noise nuisance was also created by air brakes of trucks. The situation would be particularly bad when a number of trucks were queuing. PEPO(NP)/EPD explained that the present proposal dealt with noise emitted by vehicle engines and tyres only. As regards excessive noise generated by air brakes, he said that EPD could follow up with the Transport Department (TD) and the trade on the possibility of improving the situation. Another Member said that the noise created by the air brake of trucks had been reducing with improvements in vehicle design.
10. A Member asked about the life expectancy of the current fleet of public light buses (PLBs). He also enquired about the estimated noise reduction to be brought about by the present proposal. In reply, PEPO(NP)/EPD said that the normal life expectancy of a PLB was seven to ten years. Based on some literature in Japan, noise reduction of about 1dBA could be expected over five to ten years' time as a result of improvements in vehicle design.
11. A Member said that the noise made by PLBs was particularly annoying in the early morning. The Chairman asked if the Administration could make it a requirement that PLB operators had to use vehicles with automatic gearbox as such vehicles were quieter. Another Member said that vehicles with automatic gearboxes were indeed quieter, but that the major road noise in fact came from tyre friction with the road surface. PAS(C)1/EFB said that apart from the natural phasing out of old vehicle models, proper driving habits could also reduce noise nuisance. TD could remind the transport trade through their regular liaison meetings with the trade associations.
12. A Member was in support of the proposed amendments. He asked about the comparison of the new and existing standards with regard to heavy vehicles. He also enquired how the vehicle noise level was measured. In reply, PEPO(NP)/EPD referred to Japanese large goods vehicles as an example and said that the existing noise standard was 83dBA whereas the new standard would be 80-81dBA depending on the exact type of vehicle. As for the measurement of the noise level, he said it followed internationally recognized testing methodology in which the vehicle under test would run in conditions simulating movement in urban traffic.
13. A Member said that in view of the economic hardship experienced by Hong Kong, it was not the right time to introduce new standards which would have financial burden on vehicle manufacturers. He considered that noise reduction should be achieved through other measures like better road design. In response, PAS(C)1/EFB said that the Government would consider the potential economic impacts of any policy proposal before implementation. In the present case, the Administration was following the standards already adopted in major vehicle manufacturing countries. He agreed that the Administration should continue to explore other means to reduce road noise. In this regard, the Administration had briefed Members on a package of measures that dealt with the noise impacts of existing roads.
14. A Member welcomed the proposal. She asked about the monitoring mechanism on the compliance of standards and actions to be taken upon receiving complaints from the public. Another Member said that since the newly imported vehicles would comply with the proposed standards, the Administration should pay more attention to abating noise pollution from in-use vehicles. He pointed out that the mufflers of some vehicles were illegally modified and emitted very loud noises.
15. PAS(C)1/EFB explained that noise emission standards for new vehicles were enforced through the type-approval process. As regards in-use vehicles, all commercial vehicles and older petrol vehicles were subject to annual inspections by the Transport Department. Also, the Police would be responsible for carrying out on-street enforcement actions against vehicles with illegally modified mufflers.
16. DEP supplemented that in countries where fitting of non-standard noisy mufflers was a major problem, the authorities would introduce legislation to ban the sale of the noisy equipment or vehicle parts. At present, he did not think that this had become a significant problem in Hong Kong. Further action could be considered if the problem became a genuine concern of the community at large.
17. A Member said that the legislation on noise control in Japan and Europe was not in any way more advanced than that in Hong Kong. He suggested that it might be possible to install noise meters at specific locations to detect non-compliance of noise emission from vehicles passing by. In response, DEP said that measuring noise emission from a particular vehicle in the stream of traffic would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. He had worked on the design of such tests some years ago and was convinced that it was not practicable.
18. Noting that it would take up to 10 years to phase out the existing vehicle fleet, a Member was concerned that the reduction in noise would be offset by the increase in the number of vehicles during the period. He was in support of expediting the implementation of the proposal despite the current economic hardship. Another Member clarified that the number of vehicles had not been increasing as fast as one might think and many in-use vehicles already complied with the proposed standards. The remaining problem was to find a suitable and a quieter engine for PLBs. He noted that a new Euro III turbo engine was being tested in Europe and hoped it could reduce the noise problem.
19. The Chairman concluded that the Council was in favour of the proposal.
Agenda Item 4 : Water Pollution Control Ordinance, Chapter 358 - Proposed Amendments to the Technical Memorandum on Effluent Standards
(ACE Paper 40/2001)
20. The Chairman welcomed PAS(B)1/EFB, AD(WW)/EPD and SEPO(WP)/EPD to the meeting. AD(WW)/EPD briefed Members on the proposed amendments.
21. In response to the Chairman, AD(WW)/EPD confirmed that apart from an introductory briefing on the proposed amendments, a number of meetings had been convened for different groups of stakeholders. During one of those meetings, the catering industry made a counter proposal to further relax oil & grease standards for discharges of less than 100 m3/day. Such a view was supported by academics and wastewater treatment professionals. EPD considered the proposal acceptable and included it in the present package.
22. SEF noted that the bleaching & dyeing trade had objected to the proposal to extend the case-by-case assessment to flows between 1,000 m3/day and 6,000 m3/day. She enquired about the effect of the proposal on the trade. AD(WW)/EPD pointed out that the proposed revision would not be a problem for a new factory because the operator would seek technical assistance and expert advice during the setting up process. However, for existing factories, the case-by-case assessment might bring uncertainties on the additional investment required of their wastewater treatment facilities. In view of that, the Authority would not change the standards on existing factories when their licence was renewed for the first time after the new TM came into operation. That would allow sufficient lead-time for the licensees to adjust their facilities if necessary.
23. On SEF's follow-up questions, AD(WW)/EPD said that a licence was valid for five years and there were about 10 to 20 bleaching & dyeing factories which discharged effluents of over 1,000 m3 per day.
24. A Member was in support of the proposed amendments but he noted that the nutrient standards would be tightened significantly. He urged the Authority to provide assistance to small enterprises to enable them to comply with the revised standards. AD(WW)/EPD said that a similar point was raised during the consultation stage and EPD had already taken that into account when coming up with the present proposal. The new standards would affect mainly the discharges from private sewage treatment plants of residential development. While application of the new standards would be considered for existing discharges, ample time would be allowed on a case-by-case basis for the plant upgrading.
25. A Member pointed out that more and more factories were moving out of Hong Kong. He said that the Government should assist small manufacturing enterprises rather than tightening the effluent standards which might increase their operating costs as a result. In response, AD(WW)/EPD explained that the new proposal would not necessarily tighten the standards. In fact, some standards that were relevant to small enterprises would be relaxed. In addition, the Authority had organized more than 20 seminars to explain the proposed requirements to the trade concerned and help them to comply with the new standards. DS(B)/EFB supplemented that the Administration did appreciate the economic hardship of the community in general but at the same time there was a need to fulfill environmental obligations. He emphasized that in adjusting the standards, the Administration had taken into account the views of the stakeholders to reduce their difficulties, if any, in complying with the revised standards.
26. A Member commented that the tightening of standards for discharging total suspended solids, chemical Oxygen demand and surfactants on the one hand and the relaxation on the discharge of petroleum hydrocarbon to sewers on the other was a good example of balancing environmental improvement with commercial viability. He said that operators of petrol filling stations might not even be aware of the impacts of discharging harmful substances into the sewers and hence there was a need to educate them. In Australia and other countries, the government provided petrol filling stations with separate collection bins for ethylene glycol which could be recycled. He asked the Authority to give some thoughts to such practice as a further means to improve the water quality in the territory.
27. A Member supported the proposal but cautioned that it might not be the right time for implementation when the community as a whole was facing an economic downturn. In response, AD(WW)/EPD said that the stakeholders considered the proposal acceptable in general. The catering trade even welcomed the proposal because the oil & grease standards would be relaxed.
28. A Member said that Green Power and he personally supported the proposal. There was no doubt that some trades would be under pressure to upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities but the ultimate outcome of the proposal would be beneficial to the environment in particular to the fisheries industry. However, he was a little bit disappointed that only the TM would be amended because in his view the definition of water pollution should be elaborated more clearly in the Ordinance to avoid disputes. In response, AD(WW)/EPD said that he was not in a position to comment on the point about the definition of water pollution because a court case was under trial at the moment. However, he said that the Authority was reviewing the Water Pollution Control Ordinance in the light of past experience.
29. A Member said that it was high time to review the effluent standards having regard to the changes in industries operating in Hong Kong. Simplifying the grouping of receiving waters would have positive impacts on the water quality of the territory. She supported the proposal despite the economic downturn and felt strongly that the interest of the trades concerned should not override the general living environment of Hong Kong. She enquired how much further the metal loadings in the discharged effluent was expected to drop, and whether any risk assessment had been carried out to ensure that the slight relaxation of the standards would not have any adverse impact on the water quality.
30. In reply to a Member's questions, AD(WW)/EPD said that the metal loading had been significantly reduced from 7000 kg/day to the present level of 500 kg/day. Upon commissioning of Stage 1 of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, he would expect another 100-200 kg/day reduction, but the precise figure would depend on the performance of the chemically enhanced primary treatment. He said that the standards were adopted taking into account its effect on the marine environment and the slight relaxation was unlikely to have an adverse impact on the water quality.
31. The Chairman said that the proposal had balanced the interest of the community and the stakeholders as a whole and trusted that the standards would be fine-tuned as changes took place. He concluded that the Council was generally in support of the proposal.
Agenda Item 5 : Briefing on Sheung Shui to Lok Ma Chau Spur Line(ACE Paper 41/2001)
32. The Chairman welcomed DS(1)/TB and SD(CP)/KCRC and their presentation team to the meeting. DS(1)/TB gave a brief introduction on the new tunnel option of the Spur Line followed by a detailed description of the project by SD(CP)/KCRC and EM/KCRC.
33. A Member praised the project proponent for the quick action to work out a new option for the Spur Line as the congestion at Lo Wu had further deteriorated. He asked about the completion date of the project and whether the fares would be increased due to the expenses incurred for the appeal. In reply, SD(CP)/KCRC said that the EIA report was expected to be finalized and submitted to the Director of Environmental Protection by the end of the year. If the report was approved and the environmental permit obtained around March or April 2002 and all went on smoothly, it was anticipated that the project would be completed by 2007 with a possibility for an early completion by the end of 2006. As regards fares, they would be set at a competitive level as compared with other forms of transport. Regarding the congestion at Lo Wu, DS(1)/TB said that the Administration would, before the completion of the Spur Line, carry out measures to relieve the situation. Measures would include prolonging the opening hours of the border crossing and increasing the manpower of the Immigration Department. However, the long-term solution would be to provide another border crossing between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
34. The Chairman observed that the process of checking identification at the side of the Mainland appeared to be faster. He asked whether the Administration could speed up the checking process at the Hong Kong side. In reply, DS(1)/TB said that the issue was within the remit of the Security Bureau. He considered an additional border crossing the ultimate solution.
35. A Member asked whether the affected fishponds in Lok Ma Chau would be retained as fishponds or enhanced as wetland. In reply, EM/KCRC said that the existing commercial fishponds had limited attraction to the majority of birds. The KCRC would change the character of the ponds to enhance their values as habitats for birds and other species. In reply to that Member's follow-up question, SD(CP)/KCRC confirmed that KCRC would take up the responsibility of maintaining and managing the 28.5 ha of wetland compensation area.
36. A Member considered it more appropriate and effective for AFCD to take over the management of the wetland compensation area. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC said that they had undertaken to keep the compensation area in satisfactory environmental conditions and they always welcomed advice and suggestions from the Administration in that respect. AD(Cons)/AFCD supplemented that KCRC's commitment was in line with the polluter-pays principle.
37. The Chairman asked from the public education's point of view, whether it would be possible for the public to gain access to the enhanced wetland area. SD(CP)/KCRC said that it would be difficult because the wetland was located within the closed area. To gain access, the public would require a permit issued by the Police. However, KCRC intended to design the train terminal in such a way that passengers could view the area from the station. AD(Cons)/AFCD supplemented that access to the wetland area was also controlled under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance. As far as conservation education was concerned, he informed Members that AFCD had completed phase I of the Hong Kong Wetland Park project. An exhibition pavilion was open to the public free of charge in December 2000.
38. A Member thanked TB and KCRC for the briefing. However, he had doubts on the purpose of the briefing and the implications of Members' comments on the EIA study which was being undertaken. The Chairman clarified that the briefing only provided an opportunity for Members to voice out their concerns at an early stage of the project. The discussion would not pre-empt the Council's decision on the EIA report when it was formally submitted under the statutory EIA process.
39. A Member was concerned as to whether KCRC could obtain sufficient land for the wetland compensation area. He considered that Members would have more confidence in the proposed mitigation measures if KCRC could demonstrate their adequacy in the EIA report. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC said that compared to the previous report, the new EIA report would include far more information and present a comprehensive picture of the proposed option to the public.
40. The Chairman recalled that he had requested KCRC to provide the Council with a list of questions raised by DEP with regard to the previous EIA report. He asked whether the list could also be made available to interested parties such as the academics who might use it as a case study. In reply, SD(CP)/KCRC said that he had no problem with the request provided that DEP would consent to it. He pointed out that the information which had been made open during the appeal was already in the public domain.
41. A Member expressed concern that similar to the last EIA study, KCRC only provided one option in building the Spur Line. She hence doubted whether the present option was the result of a fair re-assessment. While noting the success in using the tunnel-boring machine for the construction of the West Rail, she queried whether a risk assessment had been undertaken to ascertain its suitability for the Spur Line project in view of the different earth conditions of the two locations. She also asked how the increase of HK$2 billion in the project estimate was worked out and how KCRC could ensure that violations of the environmental permit conditions as in the case of the West Rail would not occur again. Finally, she asked when detailed information such as the findings of the ecological studies could be made available to the concerned groups at an early stage.
42. In response to that Member's questions, SD(CP)/KCRC said that when conducting the first EIA study, the viaduct option was considered the most reasonable and practical option for the Spur Line. As more information had been collected over the last two years, he assured Members that the re-assessment of the project would be a fair one and that the proposed option was the best one after taking into account all relevant considerations. As for the tunnel boring methodology, SD(CP)/KCRC said that KCRC had tailor-made a hydrological modeling for the Spur Line project and details would be included in the EIA report. Regarding the revised cost estimate, he explained that the increase was due to the excavation works for the tunnel and the volume of materials to be disposed as well as the greater volume of concrete, etc. They could provide detailed figures if needed.
43. EM/KCRC clarified that KCRC had not violated any permit conditions in the case of the West Rail. There were only incidents in which their contractors did not dispose of certain waste materials properly. In future, the KCRC would tighten the contract conditions on disposal of waste materials. EM/KCRC further said that the original EIA data which were still valid for the new option would be re-visited in the light of new information available. He assured Members that all relevant information would be included in the EIA report for public scrutiny.
44. A Member said that if relevant information could be made available before the completion of the EIA report, problems could be identified and resolved earlier thereby smoothening the statutory consultation process. In response, SD(CP)/KCRC undertook to consult the EIA Subcommittee on the preliminary findings of the EIA study at an early stage.
45. The Chairman agreed that subject to the views of DEP, discussion at an early stage would smoothen the EIA process. DEP responded that he had no objection to the proponent having an informal discussion with the Subcommittee before the submission of the EIA report.
46. A Member pointed out the importance of maintaining the transparency of information and having early dialogues with interest groups. He suggested the proponent to consult the Bird Watching Society (BWS) as the project went along. SD(CP)/KCRC said that they had already briefed all interest groups including the BWS.
47. In response to a Member's concern about where the excavated materials of the tunnel would be disposed of, SD(CP)/KCRC said that upon the advice of the Civil Engineering Department, most of the spoils would be used in the Tseung Kwan O Reclamation.
48. In response to a Member's enquiry, EM/KCRC said that upon receiving the environmental permit for the project, KCRC would start creating the wetland compensation area. They would create the wetland on a progressive basis starting farthest away from the construction site. The target was to create about 10 ha of wetland before the construction works for the Lok Ma Chau station would commence.
49. The Chairman thanked the presentation team and looked forward to receiving the EIA report as soon as possible.[The presentation team left the room at this juncture.]
50. A Member asked whether the Government had a long-term conservation policy for Long Valley. The Chairman shared that Member's concern having regard to the future development of the North West New Territories. In response, DS(C)/EFB said that EFB was reviewing the nature conservation policy and measures. The focus of the review was on whether the existing measures were effective in providing adequate protection over sites of high ecological value including those that fell within private land. As land matters such as landowners' development rights and the land use planning systems were involved, EFB would need to examine the issues thoroughly in conjunction with other bureaux/departments concerned like the Planning and Lands Bureau and the Planning Department.
51. Noting that there were patches of private land in Long Valley, a Member asked whether there were means to prevent damage to those sites. DS(C)/EFB said that those private lots were mainly zoned as agricultural land. The owners would have to apply to the Town Planning Board if they wished to change the land use. A Member remarked that there was at present no agricultural policy in Hong Kong. It would be about time for the Government to consider this issue in greater detail.
52. The Chairman said that the issue would be a matter of sustainable development. He asked whether there was a more definite timing for the inception of the Sustainable Development Council. In response, DS(C)/EFB said that sustainable development was within the schedule of the Chief Secretary of Administration but not EFB. As far as he was aware, it was likely that the Council for Sustainable Development would be set up by the end of the year.
Agenda Item 6 : Any Other Business
Meeting with Mr. Haakma, Consul-General of the Netherlands on 30 October 2001
53. The Chairman informed the meeting that two Members and he had met Mr. Haakma on that morning to discuss about the Council's visit to Europe in August. The topics discussed included the work of EIA Commission in the Netherlands, the E-test, cross-border pollution, environmental education and the polluter-pays principle.
Report on ACE's visit to Europe