Environment Bureau Environmental Protection Department ENVIRONMENT HONG KONG 2008
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11 Environmental Compliance

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To serve the community through enforcing pollution control laws to safeguard people's health and welfare.


Highlights in 2007
  • The first large-scale application of real time monitoring of vessels to control dumping at sea got underway in a project operated by the Civil Engineering and Development Department.
  • New provisions in the Waste Disposal Ordinance were brought into operation to facilitate the issuance of waste collection and disposal licences and strengthen enforcement.
  • 52 268 inspections were conducted, 7 224 licences and permits were issued and 479 prosecutions were carried out.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is in charge of ensuring operators comply with the law. We have partnership programmes that explain the legal requirements to operators and show them how to reduce pollution. We also carry out regular inspections and monitoring to detect non-compliance or other problems. In 2007 we carried out  52 268 inspections. Happily, most of the problems we found were resolved without incident. Often, operators may not be aware of their pollution or understand how to rectify the problem. The EPD's compliance team identifies the problem, communicates with the operator and ensures they take action to stop polluting. We also come across problems with sewerage infrastructure and work together with the Drainage Services Department (DSD) to rectify these. The result of our efforts, described in the examples below, is a cleaner, healthier environment for everyone.

Working toward a goal.

Working toward a goal.

Keeping the Shing Mun River clean

The Shing Mun River at Sha Tin.

The Shing Mun River at Sha Tin.
The Shing Mun River was once heavily polluted with sewage from Sha Tin New Town and surrounding villages. Today, after various programmes to divert and treat the sewage, it has very good water quality. However, localised problems still arise and the EPD's compliance officers try to address them before they get out of hand. Our efforts have been stepped up recently to meet rising public expectations and ensure the river is in good shape for the 2008 Olympic Equestrian Events, which will be staged near the river, and the 2009 East Asian Games, which will hold a rowing competition on the river.

Sometimes a local problem can bring attention to a larger issue. In July 2007, for example, a trunk sewer collapsed near Yuen Wo Playground and the sewage overflowed into the Shing Mun River. The DSD was brought in to repair the damage and the EPD stepped up monitoring. We soon discovered a nearby hidden sewer that was also leaking sewage, thus identifying a new problem. The trunk sewer was repaired, the hidden sewer fixed and the average E. coli level in the Shing Mun River subsequently hit a record annual low. The situation pointed to the need to step up sewerage maintenance in the area and a major programme was launched to reinforce all trunk sewers in Sha Tin and avoid a repeat incident.

Overflow of sewage due to collapse of	trunk sewer at Yuen Wo Playground.

Overflow of sewage due to collapse of trunk sewer at Yuen Wo Playground.

E.coli level at Tai Wai Nullah

The EPD also deals with highly localised problems. For example, at the Tai Wai Nullah, which feeds into the Shing Mun River, our regular monitoring detected a dramatic increase in the E. coli level in March 2006, to 200 000 per 100 millilitres from the annual average of 920. A number of pollution sources were identified. Nearby commercial and industrial buildings had made expedient connections to storm water drains instead of sewers, so the effluent was going into the nullah untreated. There was also blockage and leakage of public sewerage. We were able to resolve the problem by contacting polluters directly and working with the DSD to sort out the sewerage problem.

Also near Tai Wai was an incident in 2007 involving polluted discharges from Tin Sam Village that were causing bad odours downstream. The discharges were emptying into the storm water system because a foul sewer was blocked with plastic bottles. Once the waste was cleared, the water quality quickly improved.

A final example is Siu Lek Yuen Nullah, where the E. coli level doubled towards the end of 2007. The EPD did an intensive survey of the area, opening some 60 manholes and tracing a key pollution source to an expedient connection at a restaurant that sold traditional cattle offal noodles. The effluent was highly contaminated and the restaurant was told to rectify the problem. Once they had done so, the water quality of Siu Lek Yuen Nullah improved. The EPD will continue to investigate expedient connections in the area, a job that requires intense and laborious work, but which plays an important role in protecting water quality.

After clearing debris (see Inset) from a sewer in Tin Sam Village, sewage flows freely and causes no bad odours.

  After clearing debris (see Inset) from a sewer in Tin Sam Village, sewage flows freely and causes no bad odours.

Nullah pollution in old urban areas

Persistent checking and follow-up is particularly essential in older urban districts, where storm water pollution is prevalent due to many expedient connections and misconnections. The open nullah at Lung Chu Street, for example, has attracted complaints from nearby residents about the malodour and poor water quality, and the EPD has been investigating the situation in collaboration with the DSD.

Investigation of expedient connections at a housing estate (top) and a school (bottom).

Investigation of expedient connections at a housing estate (top) and a school (bottom).
We identified several problems. Temporary toilets at a school development site had been misconnected to the storm water drain so we notified the operators and ensured action was taken to rectify the problem. An overflowing septic tank was also detected after the EPD carried out dye-tracing in the area. The septic tank was at a toilet at Shek Kip Mei Park. The Architectural Services Department was responsible for the toilet and increased cleaning of the tank to prevent overflowing.

In late 2006 we carried out surveillance at major discharge premises downstream from the Lung Chu Street Nullah at the Tai Hang Tung Street Nullah, where odour was also a problem. A housing estate and shopping centre were among the places targeted. We found waste water misconnections at the shopping centre and at a wet market and we contacted property management, who rectified the problem by mid-2007.

Minimising the impacts of Route 9

Apart from inspections, monitoring and follow-up, compliance work can also involve prevention. Some projects have unavoidable pollution impacts. We work with contractors and stakeholders to find the best possible solution and minimise the impacts on people and the environment. An example of our work is the construction of Route 9.

Route 9 is a trunk road to connect Sha Tin and Tsuen Wan. Its construction is taking place alongside heavily trafficked roads, road crossings, interfaces with live Mass Transit Railway tracks and residential areas. A lot of competing demands have to be juggled, in particular controlling night noise and minimising daytime disruptions to traffic.

Construction of the road began in 2002, with a target completion date of 2008, and the EPD has been involved throughout the project. We assess the work required in each phase and work with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to schedule construction at times that cause the least noise and disturbance to traffic. In 2007, for example, road-surfacing work was planned for nine consecutive nights. After extensive liaison involving the EPD, the work was re-arranged to take place over five general holidays and two nights, thus minimising the nuisance to residents and traffic. We have also worked with the District Councils to ensure residents are fully aware of the project's requirements and the efforts to minimise noise. Only four noise complaints about the project were received in 2007.

Route 9 passes through a large residential estate in Tsuen Wan and other residential premises.

Route 9 passes through a large residential estate in Tsuen Wan and other residential premises.


Compliance work also involves prosecutions and the EPD uses this stick when dealing with particularly severe violations or operators who refuse to comply with the law. However, this is a measure of last resort. Negotiations with contractors, inspections and monitoring require continuous effort, but it pays off. We are able to identify specific sources of pollution and ensure operators understand their obligations to correct the problem and improve the environment.

Looking Ahead
Looking Ahead
  • An integrated electronic platform will be rolled out to enhance our inspection and other compliance work.

Topical Issues