50. A Member asked why the Administration did not consider the option of a longer outfall so as to minimize the impact of effluent discharge at or near the Harbour. In response, Mr. Donald Tong said that due to insufficient land on Stonecutters Island for an enhanced sewage treatment plant to give a high level of treatment to all sewage from both sides of the Harbour, the original SSDS proposal was to build a long outfall at the south of Lamma Island to discharge the treated effluent at open waters. However, a number of academics, green groups and legislators had serious reservations on that proposal. Therefore in 2000, the Chief Executive commissioned the IRP to review the Government's plan for the remaining stages of the HATS. The IRP concluded that new developments in compact sewage treatment technologies over the past few years made it possible to construct an enhanced treatment plant within the existing lot of the Stonecutters Island and hence shorter outfalls could be used to discharge the highly treated effluent at or near the Harbour. As per the recommendations of the IRP, trials and studies are now underway to assess the feasibility of the options identified by the IRP. The Administration would conduct a full-scale public consultation around the end of 2003 to decide on the way forward for the remaining stages of HATS. Mr. Tong undertook to provide that Member with background information on the old SSDS for his reference, if necessary.
51. A Member asked whether the Study had taken into account the impacts on other stakeholders such as floating and coastal seafood restaurants and boating community, and whether the possibility of reusing highly treated wastewater would be explored in the studies conducted by CDM. In response, Mr. James Chan said that if there were food catering or other activities in the vicinity of the recommended outfalls, assessment of impacts on them would be done. He also advised that the reuse of highly treated wastewater was not within the scope of the studies conducted by CDM. Recreational use of Victoria Harbour52. A Member noted in the document that recreation was not considered one of the uses of the Victoria Harbour. She asked whether the studies would look into the possibility of using the Victoria Harbour for some recreational purposes. In response, Dr. Broom said that the proposed WQCs were not yet finalized and views from Members and the public were welcome. However, given that the Harbour was a busy commercial port, it might not be suitable for recreational uses concurrently.
53. The Chairman enquired about the cost for bringing the water quality of the Harbour to a standard safe for swimming. In response, Dr. Broom said that it would largely be determined by the degree of disinfection required. A rough indication would be available at the end of the studies.
54. Having regard to the comments of two Members, the Chairman suggested the Administration consider adding seafood restaurant operators/owners, fishing associations, water sports associations and the boating community to the list of key stakeholders in Appendix II of the paper. Mr. Tong thanked the Chairman for the suggestion but pointed out that those groups might be more interested in providing inputs at a later stage rather than engaging in the technical discussion on the proposed WQCs.
Consultation in more general terms
55. The Chairman said that the proposed water criteria were difficult for a layman to understand without clear explanation on their implications. Mr. Rob Law admitted that the annex to the paper was indeed a technical document to seek the views of experts and key stakeholders. Owing to the public interest on the development of HATS, a transparent approach was considered useful in building a consensus among the community at large. At a later stage after the various trials and studies were completed, there would be a full-scale public consultation in which the general public could take part in a more meaningful manner.
56. A Member urged the Administration to state more clearly the results to be achieved by the HATS so that the general public would be able to relate them to their daily life and provide concrete responses in future consultation. In response, Mr. Tong reiterated that after completion of the trials and studies, the feasibility of the options and their price tags would be clearly set out in a consultation document for the community to consider.
57. A Member commended EPD and CDM in preparing a comprehensive and informative consultation document and urged the consultant to assess the health risks properly during the process.
58. A Member informed Members that another Member and he, as members of the Monitoring Group of HATS, had discussed with EPD officers on the proposed WQC and they were pleased to note that their inputs were largely taken on board.
59. Dr. Broom drew Members' attention to the view-sharing workshop on the proposed water criteria to be held on 22 June 2002 and said that Members' participation would be welcome.
60. The Chairman thanked Dr. Broom and his team for the briefing.
Agenda Item 6 : Chemical Waste Treatment Centre Environmental Monitoring
(ACE Paper 24/2002)
61. The Chairman welcomed Dr. Ellen Chan, Mr. Michael Pang and Mr. Joe Zorn to the meeting. Dr. Chan said that the report was prepared in response to Members' request arising from the April meeting. Mr. Zorn then briefed Members on the environmental monitoring of the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC).
62. A Member enquired about the actions taken to rectify as well as to prevent exceedances in dioxin emission; whether the reported exceedances were due to human error or system error; the volume of solid waste to be disposed of in landfills; whether there was monitoring system in place at the landfill site, and whether the CWTC only handled chemical waste generated in Hong Kong.
63. In response to that Member's question on rectifications, Mr. Zorn said that on the monitoring front they had increased the frequency of testing at the nearby housing estate from once every six months to once a month. On the operating front, an additional carbon injection system had been installed as a backup if the first one malfunctioned as in the case of past exceedances. He further pointed out that although the reported exceedances were primarily due to mechanical error, the operating staff had been instructed to carry out more frequent manual inspections of the equipment ever since.
64. On the volume of solid waste to be disposed of in landfills, Mr. Zorn said that he did not have the figure at hand. The solid waste was subject to dioxin testing at a level below 1ppb before being disposed off at landfills. There was no separate testing at the landfill site but the operator would keep track of the exact location of the waste in the landfill.
(Post meeting note : The total quantity of stabilized solid waste disposed of at landfill in 2001 was approximately 15,000 tonnes. The approximate contribution was 10% from incinerator ash and 90% from physical-chemical treatment.)
Waste treated by CWTC which was generated outside Hong Kong
65. Mr. Zorn said that in 2001, about 30 tonnes out of a total of 62,000 tonnes of chemical waste treated by CWTC was generated in Shanghai where there was no suitable facility to handle that type of waste.
66. In response to that's follow up questions, Dr. Chan explained that the treatment of chemical waste from Shanghai was a special case and a one-off event. Future requests would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Pang said that waste producers using the CWTC were charged according to the fees specified in the Chemical Waste Charging Regulation and the fees were paid to the Treasury as Government revenue.
67. A Member referred to the special case and asked whether there were standard procedures in handling the transportation of chemical waste across the boundary. In response, Dr. Chan said that the procedures were governed by the Waste Disposal Ordinance and were in full compliance with the BASEL Convention requirements in which permits were required to be issued by the exporting and importing countries.
68. A Member asked whether the CWTC operator was charged for the disposal of solid waste in landfills. In response, Mr. Zorn said that at present the disposal was free of charge but it would be subject to landfill charging upon implementation of the scheme.
69. A Member enquired about the current rate for treating chemical waste and how regularly the rate was reviewed. In response, Dr. Chan said that under the present charges, the Government only recovered 31% of the variable operating cost of CWTC but not the capital cost nor the fixed operating cost. Mr. Pang said that the rate had not been reviewed since 1997 because of the economic climate. The operating cost of the CWTC in 2001 was about HK$420 million.
70. A Member asked whether there had been a reduction in the volume of chemical waste treated by CWTC since charging was in place. In response, Dr. Chan said that the volume of chemical waste treated would vary with a number of factors, for example, the overall local industrial pattern. Furthermore, some large organizations would prefer having their own in-house treatment facility. The volume of chemical waste treated by CWTC had decreased due to installation of in-house treatment facilities or manufacturing activities moving out of Hong Kong.
71. The Chairman asked whether the samples of dioxin-containing waste taken by the Hong Kong Productivity Council for monitoring purpose were taken on a fixed timing or on random dates and times. In response, Mr. Zorn said that the timing was fixed to tie in with the tests carried out by the Government Laboratory on the samples taken from the monitoring station of the housing estates. The Chairman suggested taking random samples to increase the credibility of the monitoring exercise.
72. A Member asked whether there was any possibility to further increase the frequency of monitoring. In response, Mr. Zorn said that there was no equipment capable of continuous dioxin monitoring. Since laboratory testing took four days to complete, it would be impractical to take a daily sample. Weekly monitoring was plausible but would be very costly. Besides, no other incineration facilities except the CWTC conducted monitoring of dioxin emission on a monthly basis. The common frequency was annually or semi-annually.
73. The Chairman thanked the presentation team for the briefing.
Agenda Item 7 : Any Other Business
Tentative items for discussion at the next meeting
74. The Chairman informed Members that due to the long agenda of the meeting, the item on the progress report of the Task Force (Black Spots) had to be deferred. The Task Force had advised the Secretariat that they preferred to present the report in September.
Visit to Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works - Compact Sewage Treatment Technology Pilot Plant Trials
75. The Chairman reported that he and three other Members had signed up for the July 23rd visit and encouraged more Members to join.
Informal meeting with the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs
76. The Chairman informed Members that due to the tight meeting schedule of the LegCo Panel on Environmental Affairs in June and July 2002, the Panel suggested postponing the informal meeting to September. The Secretariat would bring up the matter in due course.
Agenda Item 8 : Date of next meeting
77. The next meeting was scheduled for 29 July 2002.