Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 60th Meeting of the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 9 July 2001 at 4:30pm

Professor LAM Kin-che (Chairman)
Mr. Otto POON (Deputy Chairman)
Professor Anthony Hedley, BBS, JP
Dr. HO Kin-chung
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming
Dr. NG Cho-nam
Miss Alex YAU
Mr. Plato YIP
Miss Petula POON (Secretary)

Absent with Apology:
Mr. Barrie COOK
Mr. Peter Y C LEE, SBSt.J

In Attendance:
Mr. Elvis AU Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment & Noise), Environmental Protection Department (EPD) (AD(EA)/EPD)
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) (AD(Cons)/AFCD)
Ms. Cora SO Executive Officer (C), Environment and Food Bureau

In Attendance for Agenda Item 3:
Mr. Peter WHITESIDE Chief Geotechnical Engineer/Fill Management, Civil and Engineering Department (CED) (CGE(FM)/CED)
Mr. George DING Senior Geotechnical Engineer/Mud Disposal, CED (SGE(MD)/CED)
Mr. Steve LAISTER Executive Director, ERM (ED/ERM)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 4:
Mr. P D MORGAN Chief Engineer/Special Duties (Works), CED (CE(SD)/CED)
Mr. Eric MA Associate, Maunsell Consultants Asia Ltd. (Associate/MCA)
Mr. Matthew KO Associate, Maunsell Environmental Management Consultants Ltd. (Associate/MEMC)
Mr. Brian KAM Senior Environmental Consultants, Maunsell Environmental Management Consultants Ltd. (SEC/MEMC)
Mr. Simon HUI Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Audit & Assessment), EPD (PEPO(AA)/EPD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 5:
Mr. Peter WHITESIDE Chief Geotechnical Engineer/Fill Management, Civil and Engineering Department (CED) (CGE(FM)/CED)
Mr. P D MORGAN Chief Engineer/Special Duties (Works), CED (CE(SD)/CED)
Mr. Jerry HO Senior Geotechnical Engineer/Fill Resources, CED (SGE(FR)/CED)
Mr. Steve JONES Director, Mouchel Asia Ltd. (Director/Mouchel)
Dr. Andrew JACKSON Managing Director, ERM (MD/ERM)
Mr. Pieter BOGERS Environmental Co-ordinator, HAM Dredging (EC/HAM)
Dr. Priscilla CHOY Director, Maunsell Environmental Management Consultants Ltd. (MEMC) (Director/MEMC)
Dr. H F CHAN Managing Director, MEMC (MD/MEMC)
Mr. P H LUI Senior Environmental Protection Officer (Water Policy), EPD (SEPO(WP)/EPD)
Mr. Alan CHAN Senior Marine Conservation Officer (East), AFCD (SMCO(E)/AFCD)


Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of 59th Meeting held on 4 June 2001

The minutes were confirmed subject to a Member's amendments.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

Para. 18 : Selection of EIA reports

2. Members noted that to facilitate their selection of EIA reports for consideration in the future, EPD would attach to the list for selection a copy of an extract of the project profiles showing the purpose and nature, location and scale of the projects.

Agenda Item 3 : Strategic Assessment and Site Selection Study for Contaminated Mud Disposal
(ACE-EIA Paper 4/2001)

3. The Chairman welcomed CGE(FM)/CED, SGE(MD)/CED and ED/ERM to the meeting. CGE(FM)/CED then introduced the background of the Study followed by ED/ERM's presentation of the detailed findings and recommendations.

4. In response to the Chairman's question, CGE(FM)/CED confirmed that the purpose of this briefing was to seek the Subcommittee's view on the proposed preferred site for Contained Aquatic Disposal (CAD) facility as an intermediate contaminated mud disposal facility for the period from 2007 to 2010. The project proponent would commission an EIA study to ascertain the environmental acceptability of the preferred site and disposal option.

Contaminated Mud Disposal Policy

5. The Chairman asked apart from a contaminated mud disposal strategy, whether the Government had a contaminated mud management strategy in place and if yes, what steps had been taken to implement the strategy. In reply, CGE(FM)/CED said that it was the Government's policy to minimize mud arising by vetting the applications from project proponents for an allocation of mud disposal capacity. An allocation would only be granted with full justification on why dredging was unavoidable, for example, maintenance dredging. He added that the relevant Works Bureau Technical Circular was being revised with a view to further reducing mud arising.

6. In response to the Chairman's follow up question, CGE(FM)/CED said that about half of the total contaminated mud arising was contributed from unavoidable dredging.

7. A Member queried the need for an intermediate CAD facility whereas a Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) seemed to be a longer-term solution. She was concerned that without a long-term strategy, more CAD facility might be built in a piece-meal basis to cater for mud arising beyond 2010. CGE(FM)/CED explained that given that public works such as a CAD facility would take five years from planning to implementation, it was considered the right time to plan for it to meet anticipated demand in 2007. Although a CDF might serve as a long-term solution, CAD provided greater flexibility for capacity expansion or contraction to cater for the uncertainty of the amount of mud arising in the following years due to changes in mud classification system. The Administration had just commissioned a consultancy study, expected to complete by 2002, to explore CDF and co-disposal of public filling materials and dredged materials.

8. A Member asked whether other options like disposal in landfills would be more cost-effective if the amount of mud arising was considerably less than expected. ED/ERM replied that upland disposal options had been looked at and the detailed results were contained in Report on Assessment of Disposal Options. In a nutshell, upland disposal options incurred higher costs due to scarcity of land and were usually implemented in situations where other options were not available.

9. The Chairman asked whether it was true that CAD was not a preferred contaminated mud disposal option in other countries. In response, ED/ERM said that this option was widely adopted in United States.

10. A Member said that according to his understanding the United States would ensure that mud was treated to the level suitable to be disposed at CAD facilities. He asked about the level of contamination of mud classified to be disposed at the proposed CAD facility in Hong Kong. ED/ERM said that the proposed CAD facility was designed for Type 2 disposal whereas only Type 3 dredged materials required special treatment.

11. On that Member's follow up question, CGE(FM)/CED said that Hong Kong had not yet identified any Type 3 dredged materials through biological screening.

12. That Member said that a study conducted by Parson & Jefferson concluded that untreated sewage discharged into Hong Kong waters contained anthropogenic toxic substances which were harmful to Chinese White Dolphins. He asked whether the Government would in the future prohibit dredged materials containing toxic substance to be disposed in Hong Kong waters. CGE(FM)/CED said that Hong Kong followed the stringent requirements of the London Convention in which disposal of materials containing insignificant amount of toxic substance in the sea was allowed.

Assessment Criteria

13. The Chairman asked why the criteria used in the suitability assessment of alternative disposal options did not include sustainability. In reply, CGE(FM)/CED said that CAD was considered sustainable because when the seabed pit was filled and capped with uncontaminated material, the original seabed level would be restored. The Chairman however pointed out that it was unsustainable from the point of view that the site could not be re-used. ED/ERM responded that sustainability relied on minimizing dredged materials requiring disposal. Sustainability should also be considered at a territory-wide level. For example, building a submarine railway tunnel would on the one hand generate dredged materials but on the other hand reduce vehicle emissions and noise on roads.

Airport East CAD vs East Sha Chau CAD

14. In response to a Member's question, ED/ERM said that Airport East rather than East Sha Chau was preferred because more activities of the Indo-pacific Humpbacked Dolphin were recorded within the areas of the latter site. East Sha Chau was also in close proximity to Sha Chau, Lung Kwu Chau Marine Parks and it impinged upon the Jet Foil runway. CGE(FM)/CED supplemented that Airport East was more favorable because the water was shallower.

15. On that Member's follow up question, CGE(FM)/CED said according to whole body analysis of fish, there was at present no indication of greater health risk to the dolphins in East Sha Chau area than elsewhere but there was still risk potential. Another Member said that the threat posed by certain chemicals to the health of dolphins was established in the study conducted by Parson & Jefferson which showed that the bodies of 64 dolphins examined contained anthropogenic toxins. However, CGE(FM)/CED responded that there was no evidence to show that there was a causal relationship between contaminated mud disposal activities and health conditions of the dolphins. That said, they would recommend Airport East to because it would reduce the potential risk. AD(Cons)/AFCD supported the preference of Airport East to East Sha Chau.

16. A Member noted that it was scientifically difficult to establish a causal relationship between mud disposal activity and dolphin population but it was not necessarily true that there were no adverse impacts on the dolphins. A recent survey conducted by the World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong showed that there were increasing dolphin activities in the Airport East area because marine traffic was restricted in the Airport Exclusion Zone. She urged the proponent to take a cautious approach.

17. A Member pointed out that Siu Ho Wan Sewage Treatment Works would soon commence operation, the EIA study of Airport East or East Sha Chau should take into account sewage discharge from that treatment plant. CGE(FM)/CED said that all cumulative impacts would be taken into consideration in the EIA study.

18. A Member was concerned that the traffic of barges carrying mud arising would create disturbance to the dolphins. ED/ERM assured him that the route of the barges would be considered in detail under the EIA study. CGE(FM)/CED supplemented that the impacts, if any, caused by the barges would be insignificant due to their low speed.

19. A Member was of the view that the East Sha Chau option should be subject to EIA study apart from the Airport East option unless the proponent had evidence to prove that there would be detrimental impacts to dolphins in East Sha Chau area.

20. A Member considered that if the proponent were to confine the EIA study to the Airport East option, they would have to bear the risk of finding that the site was unsuitable for CAD facility due to insurmountable cumulative impacts from sewage discharge by Siu Ho Wan Sewage Treatment Works. In response, ED/ERM said that the impacts of sewage discharge would depend on the location of the outfall.

21. On ED/ERM's question, AD(EA)/EPD said that the project profile would be exhibited under the EIA Ordinance and ACE could comment on it before EPD issued the Study Brief. He said that if Members considered that the EIA study should cover more options that just the Airport East CAD option, the authority would take such comments into account when drawing up the study brief. CGE(FM)/CED said that they welcomed as much inputs and comments at this stage from the Subcommittee.

22. A Member said that the CAD option at Airport East was not a non-starter. That said, he felt that the Administration could work out a high growth and a low growth scenario in forecasting the amount of contaminated mud arising after 2010 to speed up future determination of a long-term strategy for disposal of contaminated mud.

23. A Member was not convinced that the proposed facility was a sustainable solution to contaminated mud disposal and hoped that the proponent would re-consider the option of CDF. She recommended referring the issue to the full Council for further discussion. Three other Members supported that Member's recommendation.

24. Members reckoned that there was no ground to advise the proponent not to proceed with an EIA study on the Airport East CAD option, bearing in mind that the proponent would bear the risk of commissioning another EIA study should the Airport East CAD option was found unsuitable at the end of the day.

25. The Chairman concluded that the Subcommittee was concerned over the long-term strategy/policy on contaminated mud disposal and management, and noted that a consultancy study was commissioned to address this concern and to consider options including CDF. The Subcommittee was not in a position to endorse the proposed site and option for the intermediate contaminated mud disposal facility due to lack of assessment details. Nonetheless, Members noted that proponent's point that CDF was not a sensible option for an intermediate measure as it was desirable neither in financial nor in planning terms. They suggested the project proponent to consider more options other than the Airport East CAD option and that cumulative impacts, in particular sewage discharged from Siu Ho Wan Sewage Treatment Works, should be included in the EIA study. As agreed, the Subcommittee would refer the paper to the next Council meeting for consideration and invite the proponent to attend the meeting. A Member suggested the proponent to consider inviting representatives from Works Bureau which was responsible for the long-term contaminated mud disposal/management strategy.

Agenda Item 4 : EIA Study on the Decommissioning of Cheoy Lee Shipyard (CLS)
(ACE-EIA Paper 5/2001)

26. The Chairman welcomed the presentation team led by CE(SD)/CED. CE(SD)/CED and Associate/MEMC briefed Members on the paper.

27. The Chairman asked and Associate/MEMC assured him that the removal of asbestos-containing material (ACM) would not create adverse impact on external environment because the works area was separated from the rest of the shipyard. On the other hand, only properly registered contractors could carry out ACM removal work and they would carry out mitigation measures and monitoring programme to ensure that the works area was contained. Associate/MEMC also re-affirmed that no land decontamination work would be initiated at this stage.

28. In response to a Member's question, Associate/MEMC said that the contractor would prevent leakage of asbestos by undertaking fully contained removal process for high-risk asbestos and by water spraying for low-risk asbestos.

29. On a Member's follow up question, Associate/MEMC said that the contractor would control the amount of water to be sprayed to avoid draining as ground water. Also, the ground would be covered with plastic membrane to isolate the asbestos-containing water and the ground.

30. In reply to a Member's enquiry, Associate/MEMC said that the removed ACM would be packed in high-strength, double-layer bags to be disposed in landfill in accordance with approved existing practice.

31. The Chairman concluded that the Subcommittee had no objection to the ACM removal project and would recommend the proposal to ACE for endorsement.

Agenda Item 5 : Status Report on Sand Dredging at West Po Toi Marine Borrow Area
(ACE-EIA Paper 6/2001)

32. The Chairman welcomed the presentation team led by CGE(FM)/CED. CGE(FM)/CED briefly described the content of the paper.

33. The Chairman drew Members' attention to the fact that West Po Toi (WPT) was gazetted as a Marine Borrow Area (MBA) in early 1990s, thus it was exempted from carrying out an EIA study and from obtaining an environmental permit under the EIA Ordinance. CGE(FM)/CED said that though it was exempted under the EIA Ordinance, a comprehensive water modeling study has been undertaken and had been implemented a vigorous environmental monitoring and audit (EM&A) programme before the recent dredging activities.

34. A Member asked whether the Mainland still supplied sea sand for the Penny's Bay reclamation project or whether WPT was the main source. In response, CGE(FM)/CED said that WPT could not provide sufficient sand for the Penny's Bay reclamation project. The Mainland would supply about half of the sand required. CE(SD)/CED added that according to the plan, the proponent would start obtaining sea sand from the Mainland in August this year.

35. In response to a Member's question, CE(SD)/CED clarified that they had applied for variation of the environmental permit for Penny's Bay Reclamation so as to modify the combinations of plant and add in more precautionary measures at the filling area at Penny's Bay in order to achieve the original dredging rate. On that Member's follow up question, AD(EA)/EPD supplemented that the environmental permit for the Penny's Bay Reclamation controlled the total sediment loading at Penny's Bay which was at present 25.3kg/second.

36. A Member enquired about the anticipated volume of dredging at WPT per week. CGE(FM)/CED said that the initial dredging started off with approximately 500,000 m3/week and depending on the monitoring results, the amount would go up to 730,000 m3/week.

37. Noting that the permit requirement was based on pollution loading, the Chairman was curious why the computer modeling was based on dredging rate. In response, CGE(FM)/CED explained that the dredging at WPT was quite separate from the permit-controlled work on site and that the ecological impact on table corals would be better gauged by variations in dredging rate.

38. The Chairman noted that the computer modeling was incapable of producing accurate prediction on settlement of sediment on table corals. He queried how this could ensure the protection of corals. MD/ERM said that given the nature of the modeling exercise which attempted to account for the impacts arisen from other concurrent projects nearby, the modeling results were only able to give a broad indication of where they should focus in the EM&A programme. For this reason, the EM&A Manual was updated on 9 July 2001 to impose more stringent requirements and require more frequent dive surveys to monitor water quality at the site concerned.

39. The Chairman said that the existing monitoring work could only identify impacts already occurred but could not prevent damage caused by sudden burst of sediments. In response, MD/ERM said that the EM&A programme was designed so that it contained a series of management actions triggered at different levels of impacts. He assured Members that the project proponent would take proper management actions even at the intermediate level. Apart from that, since the dredging rate used in the computer model was much higher than the actual rate, such a sudden burst of sediments was unlikely to happen.

40. A Member pointed out that there had been incidents in which the sediments rocketed to five times the normal concentration. He asked whether the proponent would consider increasing the frequency of dive survey and whether the ecological importance of these corals would be significant to the extent that worth statutory protection. In reply, MD/ERM said that the project proponent had increased dive survey from once a week to twice a week. As regards the importance of corals, he would leave it to AFCD to comment. However, he emphasised that the types of corals identified after dredging activities had commenced had actually increased when compared to those recorded in the baseline survey. On the ecological value of table corals, SMCO(E)/AFCD said that they were rare species which could be found in Indo-pacific area. In Hong Kong, table corals were found in North and Southern North parts of Ninepin Island, Waglan and Sung Kong. For this reason, Waglan and Sung Kong were included as one of the control sites to monitor the status of table corals in the EM&A Programme.

41. In reply to a Member, SMCO(E)/AFCD said that subject to the implementation of the measure and the event and action plans, AFCD was satisfied that the EM&A Programme dated 9 July would be adequate and effective in respect of coral monitoring. He supplemented that AFCD would employed Ms. Denise McCorry as an independent coral checker to audit the dive survey results.

42. A Member cautioned that the corals survived through the last dredging activities did not necessarily guarantee that they would survive through the current dredging as the proponent was applying a progressive increase of dredging rate. Moreover, she noted that the modeling results indicated exceedances in water quality standards during up tides. CGE(FM)/CED said that the exceedances were calculated on basis of the model and monitoring results confirmed that there were no adverse impacts to the corals.

43. The Chairman asked whether there were objective criteria to determine whether the impacts were adverse or not. MD/ERM said in reply that it mainly relied on the interpretations of EPD and AFCD. CGE(FM)/CED supplemented that EPD and AFCD agreed on the Event Action Plan which set out different actions to be taken in respond to different levels of monitoring results in the EM&A Manual.

44. On the follow up question raised by the Chairman, MD/ERM said that the criteria used in the Event Action Plan were based on protocols adopted for the Great Barrier Reef and were modified in the light of discussion with AFCD. The criteria adopted in monitoring WPT were also used in similar assessment for corals.

45. Noting that Members were concerned over unpredicted impacts on corals, a Member asked if there were automatic instruments to check monitoring round-the-clock. Director/Mouchel said that such devices were available to monitor the turbidity level but not the more important suspended solid level. In any case, setting up a permanent monitoring station at coral sites would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

46. In reply to a Member's question, MD/ERM said that dredging work would stop when more than 25% change in percentage cover of live coral or number of live coral colonies. Since the EM&A Manual provided to Members had been updated later, he welcomed Members to refer to the latest version and raise detailed questions, if necessary. CGE(FM)/CED undertook to send updated copies to Members after the meeting.

47. In reply to the Chairman, Director/Mouchel said that a single observation rather than a successive series of observations of exceedances would initiate the actions listed in the Event Action Plan.

48. A Member asked when dredging activities would resume. CGE(FM)/CED said that since the results of the recent monitoring did not show sign of exceedances, the Independent Environmental Checker had recommended and they accepted that dredging could resume as early as possible (i.e. 10 July) with the control provided by the updated EM&A and its Event Action Plan. In view of Members' concern, CGE(FM)/CED undertook to send them regular updates on dredging and EM&A initially on a one or two weekly basis.

Agenda Item 6 : Any Other Business

Monthly Update on Applications under the EIA Ordinance 49. Members noted the monthly update.

Noise Review Document for Christian Alliance School

50. Members noted that a copy of the captioned document had been circulated for their information. The noise review was carried out according to the endorsement condition of the EIA report on KCRC - Tai Wai to Ma On Shan Extension.

Tentative Items for Next Meeting

51. Members noted that three EIA reports were scheduled for the next meeting. They were namely Central Reclamation Phase III, Central/Wan Chai Bypass & Island Eastern Corridor Link, and Wanchai Development Phase II.


Proposed Submarine Pipeline

52. A Member said that World Wide Fund For Nature Hong Kong (WWFHK) had recently learnt from a gazette that a local utility company had proposed to construct a pipeline across the harbour. Her concern was that the proposed alignment of the pipeline was in close proximity to Sharp Island West where it was identified as a hotspot for corals under the North East New Territories Development Strategy Study. She felt that the proponent had deliberately chose the present alignment in order to avoid the EIA process because an alternative alignment would impinge upon the Pak Sha Wan Site of Scientific Interest which was approximately 500m to the west of Sharp Island. She said that WWFHK was filing objections to the proposal under the Foreshore & Seabed Ordinance but she doubted if there had been similar cases.

53. In response to a Member's question, AD(EA)/EPD said that the proposal was not classified under any schedules in the EIA Ordinance and thus was not a designated project. He said that unless the alignment impinged upon designated areas under statutory protection, the project would not be controlled under EIA Ordinance.

(Post meeting notes : ERM, the environmental consultant hired by China Light and Power Limited for the submarine cable project approached AFCD and WWWHK on 19th July to discuss the project. At the meeting, it was agreed that should dive surveys and sediment plume calculations show unacceptable impacts, the cable would be moved west thus triggering designated project status.)

Agenda Item 7 : Date of Next Meeting

54. The next meeting was scheduled for 4 August 2001 at 9:00a.m.

Date of Next Meeting

55. Members noted that the original scheduled date of the next meeting would clash with the departure date of the council' s visit to Europe and might leave the Subcommittee less time to discuss the three EIA reports. They therefore agreed to advance the meeting to Saturday, 4 August 2001 at 9:00am.

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
July 2001




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