Advisory Council on the Environment

Confirmed Minutes of the 72nd Meeting of the Environmental Impact Assessment Subcommittee of the Advisory Council on the Environment held on 8 July 2002 at 4:00pm


Professor LAM Kin-che, JP (Chairman)  
Mr. Otto POON (Deputy Chairman)  
Mr. Barrie COOK  
Professor Anthony HEDLEY, BBS, JP  
Mr. Peter Y C LEE, SBSt.J  
Mr. LIN Chaan-ming  
Mrs. Mei NG  
Dr. NG Cho-nam  
Miss Alex YAU  
Miss Petula POON (Secretary)  

Absent with Apology:

Dr. HO Kin-chung  

In Attendance:

Mr. K.S CHAN Acting Assistant Director (Environmental Assessment & Noise), Environmental Protection Department (EPD)
Mr. C C LAY Assistant Director (Conservation), Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)

In Attendance for Agenda Item 1:

Mr. B S CHOW General Manager, Aviation Logistics, Airport Authority (AA)
Mr. Amin EBRAHIM Group Manager, Aviation Logistics, AA
Mr. Bill ROBERYTS Civil Engineering Manager, AA
Mr. Martin PUTNAM Assistant Environmental Manager, AA
Ms Agnes LIU Communication Officer
Mr. Steve V Jones Director, Mounchel Asia, Ltd (MAL)
Ms Helen COCHRANE Associate Director, MAL
Dr. Shaun Nicholson Senior Environmental Scientist, MAL
Mr. Simon Hui Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Environmental Assessment & Audit), EPD




Appointment as Justice of the Peace

Members congratulated the Chairman for being appointed as Justice of the Peace with effect from 1 July 2002.

Agenda Item 1 : Confirmation of Minutes of the 70th and 71st Meetings held on 27 May and 3 June 2002

2. The minutes were confirmed without amendments.

Note of the Informal Dialogue

3. Members had no comments on the draft note of the informal dialogue conducted on 3 June 2002 except that the question mark in item 8 after the word Deep Bay should be removed.

Agenda Item 2 : Matters Arising

4. There were no matters arising from the last two meetings.

Agenda Item 3 : Yuen Long and Kam Tin Sewerage and Sewage Disposal Stage 1 - Packages 1A-1T - Kam Tin Trunk Sewerage
(ACE-EIA Paper 11/2002)

5. Mr. Chairman said that since five Members had indicated that the EIA report could be endorsed, presentation of the EIA report by the project proponent was not required. Members would discuss whether the report should be endorsed without conditions or with conditions.

6. In response to a Member's question, another Member said that 90% of the abuse in land use and fly-tipping at Kam Tin area were project related and before the implementation of the EIA Ordinance.

7. A Member pointed out that the project proponent did not provide any compensation for the loss of partially filled fishponds and cultivated land due to the low impact and low quality of the habitats. He expressed concern about the lack of compensation and its effect on the no net loss principle though he had no objection to endorsing the EIA report in question.

8. After further discussion, the meeting agreed to endorse the EIA report subject to the conditions proposed by a Member.

Agenda Item 4 : Permanent Aviation Fuel Facility
(ACE Paper 12/2002)

9. A Member pointed out that the selected routing of the submarine pipeline would intrude into a marine park in the region and strictly speaking did not comply with the precautionary principle of environmental impact assessment that avoidance should come before mitigation. However, since the selected option would cause less environmental impact compared with other alternative options, it was accepted on its own merits. The project should not be taken as a precedent and other projects should still follow the principle of avoidance first, to be followed by mitigation and compensation.

10. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Mr. C C Lay confirmed that the project had been submitted to the Country and Marine Parks Board and had obtained the latter's endorsement.

11. In response to a Member's comments on the effectiveness and reliability of visual monitoring of dolphin, Mr. C C Lay said that according to experience, visual monitoring was a very effective method to ensure that no dolphin would appear within the dolphin exclusion zone. There would be trials on using spot acoustic monitoring for three days in the first week of piling so as to confirm the effectiveness of visual monitoring.

12. A Member said that he had no specific comments on the project which in his view was a result of compromise and as such would never be totally satisfactory. The area where the tank farm was located was an area devoted to industrial development. As far as risk was concerned, he views was that if the existing facilities worked satisfactorily, it would give some indication about the operation of the future facility.

13. In response to a Member's comments on protecting dolphins, Mr. C C Lay said that according to long term monitoring, there was no indication that the number of dolphins were decreasing nor were there signs that the dolphin population was moving westbound. The number of dolphin at the Pearl River estuary was estimated to be more than 1,000. The dolphins had clearly adapted to the operation of the existing facilities.

14. In reply to a Member's enquiry, Mr. C C Lay informed the meeting that according to information available, the Mainland authority had designated the core area of the dolphin sanctuary at East Sha Chau area as a nature reserve/dolphin sanctuary at a provincial level and was in the process of upgrading it to a national level. (The project proponent joined the meeting at this juncture.)

15. The Chairman welcomed the project proponent team and invited Mr. Chow to brief the meeting on the EIA report.

The operation of the existing facilities

16. In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Mr. Amin Ebrahim said that the existing facilities operated smoothly. There had been no leakage at all during the operation of the facility in the past five years. As for impact on marine ecology, Mr. Martin Putnam said that the dolphin-monitoring programme undertaken before, during and after the construction phase of the Aviation Fuel Receiving Facilities (AFRF) showed that dolphin abundance had returned to pre-construction levels. It indicated that any impacts on the dolphins were short-term.

17. A Member enquired about the possibility of minor dripping of fuel during discharge of aviation fuel from vessels. Mr. Bill Roberts explained that although dripping at the discharge connection could occur, there were catch-trays put underneath the connection between the vessel and the jetty to collect dripping and prevent fuel from falling into the sea. Mr. B S Chow added that the smaller number of vessel movements involved in the operation of the new facility would minimize the frequency of such incidents.

Methods used for selecting and evaluating the alignment of pipelines

18. A Member asked about the weighting given to risk, fishery assessment, cumulative impacts, etc. apart from seabed configuration in selecting and evaluating the routing of the pipelines.

19. Mr. Steve Jones explained that they had to avoid routing the pipelines through areas which were not feasible, i.e. a route through the contaminated mud pits at East Sha Chau (northern corridor) and a route around the north-east of the airport where there were a number of cables in the seabed (eastern corridor). Placing a pipeline in those locations was undesirable in environmental and engineering terms. Furthermore, in areas where there were already submarine electric cables, the co-existence of fuel pipelines and electrical cables would induce natural corrosion of pipelines thus posing environmental risk. After eliminating eastern and northern corridors, the western corridor was the only area found to be feasible for locating the pipelines. Two pipeline options in the western corridor were assessed in terms of risk and operational effects. The present option was selected because of, inter alia, the smaller quantity of dredging required and a lesser impact on dolphins.

20. Ms. Helen Crochrane supplemented that weighting had been adopted for evaluating potential PAFF sites but not for assessing the routing of the pipelines. The assessment of the latter was a strict comparison between the perceived impacts of the two pipeline options on dolphins using, for example, Tom Jefferson's index system. Mr. Amin Ebrahim added that the initial selection of the pipeline corridors was qualitative but the two options for the pipelines in the western corridor were assessed by means of a quantitative approach.

Efficacy of the bubble jacket

21. A Member remained to be convinced that the bubble jacket which was subject to test would adequately protect dolphins that frequented the project site

22. Dr. Shaun Nicholson explained that the proposed bubble jacket was based on the bubble curtain used during construction of the AFRF but had been modified to overcome problems posed by deep water and stronger currents present near Tuen Mun Area 38. The commitment in the EIA was that the bubble jacket would provide the same, if not better, noise attenuation to that provided by the AFRF bubble curtain. It would aim to achieve at least a 3-5 dB reduction in noise. The design of the bubble jacket would be undertaken at the detailed design stage.

23. In reply to the Chairman's enquiry, Mr. Amin Ebrahim said that bubble jacket or bubble curtain had not been used elsewhere in reducing under water noise. But the experts they had contacted, including dolphin acoustic experts, were optimistic that the bubble jacket would achieve the specified noise attenuation.

24. A Member was concerned about the impact of underwater noise on dolphin behaviour and asked whether there had been long term monitoring on the behaviour of dolphins after the construction period of the AFRF project. Mr. Steve Jones said that the consultants had conducted two six months monitoring for the AFRF project but there was no long term monitoring by AA after the facilities had started operation. However, AFCD, with Tom Jefferson's involvement had continued the long-term dolphin research effort since the construction of the AFRF.

Effect of piling noise on dolphin food source

25. A Member pointed out that underwater noise affected not only dolphins but also the food source for dolphins.

26. On the effect of piling noise on dolphin food sources (e.g. fish), Mr. Steve Jones explained that the consultants had taken that into account in the AFRF project as well as the present EIA. Dr. Nicholson pointed out that dolphins also fed on other kinds of marine life such as squid, and neither squid nor fish were as adversely affected by noise impacts as dolphins. The fact that there was no long-term impact on dolphin abundance arising from the AFRF project showed that the effect of piling noise on dolphin food sources had been negligible and short term. Otherwise the dolphins would not have returned.

27. Mr. Steve Jones said that the bubble jacket was likely to achieve substantial improvement over the bubble curtain. When the bubble jacket under development, was confirmed to be successful, it could become a standard in Hong Kong in underwater noise attenuation.

Alternative piling methods

28. On alternative piling methods, Mr. Bill Roberts pointed out that bored piling was a feasible alternative but using it for the construction of the jetty would take a much longer time from an engineering point of view and might not be preferable over percussive piling in terms of overall environmental impact. To allow the boring equipment to operate, a casing must first be percussively driven into the seabed. In addition, to socket the pile into bed rock would require the use of a chisel which also produced percussive noise impacts. The longer construction period would extend the duration of potential ecological impacts and make it very difficult to avoid the peak calving season.

29. Mr. Martin Putnam reminded the Subcommittee that the AFRF project had also utilised percussive piling and, before deciding on it, a panel of dolphin experts had been consulted, including an expert on underwater acoustics. They agreed that the benefits of a shorter construction period making use of percussive piling outweighed the disbenefits of additional noise impacts, which could be reduced by mitigation measures.

30. A Member asked whether a more stringent standard in noise attenuation could be set since the bubble jacket would provide the same, if not better, noise attenuation to that provided by the AFRF bubble curtain.

31. Mr. Steve Jones said that they had considered the issue but eventually could not decide what targets they should aim for. Since the detailed design of the bubble jacket would be subject to test, it would not be appropriate to set a more stringent noise target than that specified in the EIA report.

32 Mr. Amin Ebrahim undertook to try to achieve a better level of noise attenuation than 3-5 dB and would submit the results of the noise attenuation test to the Subcommittee for information before piling started.

33. In reply to a Member's enquiry, Mr. Steve Jones said that the target of 3-5 dB must be achievable.

Acoustic decoupling

34. A Member pointed out that the barge on which the piling equipment was installed might act as an amplifier for the piling noise. Mr. Steve Jones explained that to address the problem, the contractor would insulate the steel frames, generators and all other noisy equipment on the barge so that they were acoustically decoupled. Specific decoupling measures would be worked out in the detailed design stage. Mr. Bill Roberts added that the contractor had already started to consider ways of decoupling by introducing an acoustic barrier on the lifting equipment for the piling hammer.

Sediment plume modeling

35. A Member expressed concern about the accuracy of the sediment plume modeling of the project having regard to the fish kill in Ma Wan in connection with the Penny's Bay project.

36. Mr. Steve Jones explained that they have reviewed the water quality modeling for the Penny's Bay project and considered that the results were reasonably accurate. The accuracy of modeling depended largely on the grid size. With the advance in computing power, a finer grid size had been used for modeling or the PAFF EIA. The present modeling would be more accurate than that for the Penny's Bay project. Furthermore, the current movements at Sha Chau area were much less complex than in the Ma Wan area and hence the uncertainty would be less.

Water quality monitoring points

37. A Member expressed concern about the adequacy and the distribution of water quality monitoring points for environmental monitoring and auditing purposes. In response, Ms Helen Crochrane explained that based on the result of the sediment plume modeling which showed that the water quality would be within the water quality objectives, no monitoring was in fact required. However, since the project was within a marine park, the proposed monitoring points would target the dredging in the marine park but not along the entire alignment of the pipelines. Also bearing in mind that the dredging work within the marine park would last for only a few days, the proposed number of monitoring points would be sufficient.

38. A Member commented that the proposition of monitoring the dredging along the section of the pipeline within the marine park but not the rest of the pipeline was unscientific. As far as the protection of dolphin was concerned, one would accept that either the dredging would not have impact on the dolphin and therefore no monitoring was required or that dredging along the whole section of the pipeline should be monitored. Thus, to allay Members' concerns, Mr. Amin Ebrahim made a commitment that the project proponent would put in more water quality monitoring points along the pipeline route.

Operational safety during typhoon

39. In response to a Member's enquiry about the operational safety of the facility during a typhoon, Mr. Bill Roberts explained that at or before typhoon signal no. 3 was hoisted, tankers would go offshore and would not stay at berth. Hence, there would be no question of a tanker incident during a typhoon.

Environment Management System

40. A Member suggested the project proponent adopting an environmental management system to ensure that the mitigation measures were implemented. Mr. Steve Jones informed the meeting that contractual obligations required the contractor as well as the operator of the facility to put in place an environmental management system to ensure that the proposed measures in the EIA report, including the testing of the bubble jacket, would be implemented.

41. Mr. Martin Putnam added that the construction contractor of the project had been certified under ISO 14001. The project would fall under that certification.

42. A Member expressed concern about the impact of mud dredging and possible contamination on fishery resources. He also asked whether there would be compensation for affected fishermen. Mr. Amin Ebrahim clarified that the project consultant had worked on a number of project in the same area and were highly familiar with the level of sediments contamination in the area that would be affected by the pipelines. The sediments to be disturbed by the project were not contaminated. As for the contaminated mud pits at East Sha Chau, a risk assessment on the contaminated mud pits on dolphins and fishery resources had already been undertaken under a different project and the result was that there was no significant risk on fishery resources. The PAFF EIA fisheries assessment had made the same conclusion.

43. Mr. Steve Jones added that the fish culture zone at Ma Wan was quite far away from the project. It was unlikely that the project would have any impact on the Ma Wan fish culture zone.

44. Mr. Amin Ebrahim informed the meeting that the project would be gazetted under the Foreshore and Seabed Ordinance around October 2002. Affected fishermen could lodge objections within two months after the gazette. According to the Ordinance, the project proponent, not the Government, would be required to compensate the affected fishermen if necessary. The compensation would be arranged through AFCD. Mr. Bill Roberts added that the fishermen would be notified through the Marine Department when dredging took place.

Cumulative impacts

45. The Chairman referred to public comments on cumulative impacts of the project and sought clarification from the project proponent. Mr. Amin Ebrahim informed the meeting that the Submarine Cable Landing installation project between Tuen Mun and the airport had already been completed. Ms Helen Crochrane added that the three reclamation projects in conjunction with the widening of Castle Peak Road would be completed before 2003 whilst the dredging of the present project would not start until 2004. Also, the New Contaminated Mud Marine Disposal Facility at Airport East/East Sha Chau Area would not start until 2006. The conclusion was that an issue of cumulative impacts did not exist.

Fuel spillage from the tank farm

46. In response to public concern about the risk of fuel spillage from the tank farm, Mr. Steve Jones indicated that the tank farm would be bunded so that any fuel spillage would not go outside the tank farm boundary on land.

Site for the PAFF

47. In response to the question about the siting of the PAFF at the airport, Mr. Bill Roberts explained that vessels carrying aviation fuel to the jetty would require certain depth of the seawater. The airport was not suitable for locating the jetty because of the shallow water there. Height restriction at the Airport also made it impossible to accommodate vessels at the jetty.

Extension of the period to avoid full calving season 48. A Member enquired about the possibility of extending the non-piling period to avoid a longer calving season (April to August) than just the peak calving season (April to June). In response, Mr. Amin Ebrahim pointed out that though actual piling lasted for only 60 days, a lot of preparation work was required before piling. Extension of the period to August would reduce the working time to only seven months and would affect the piling work. Nonetheless, he agreed to consider the proposal when the works programme was better defined.


49. After further discussion, the Subcommittee concluded that it would recommend the EIA report to the Council for endorsement with the following proposed conditions- (a) measures should be taken to reduce the underwater piling noise as much as possible and in any case noise should be reduced by 3 to 5dB

  1. In addition, the results of the bubble jacket noise attenuation trial and test should be reported to the EIA Subcommittee before piling commences; and
  2. the piling and related equipment installed on the piling barge should be acoustically decoupled such that the underwater noise emitted from the hull of the barge would not be higher than that from the percussive piling itself; and
  3. there should be additional water quality monitoring points during the dredging phase.

Fisheries resource assessment

50. As a separate issue outside the purview of the project, a Member requested the Airport Authority to consider conducting a fisheries resource assessment on areas near the project site. In response, Mr. Amin Ebrahim said that the matter had not been raised previously and therefore he could not provide an immediate response. Nonetheless, he agreed to consider the request and provide a response later.

Agenda Item 5 : Any Other Business

Tentative items for discussion at the 73rd meeting

51. Members noted that the EIA on Deep Bay Link was scheduled for discussion at the next meeting.

Agenda Item 6 : Date of Next Meeting

52. The next meeting is scheduled for 5 August 2002 (Monday) at 4:00pm.

EIA Subcommittee Secretariat
July 2002


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