ExCo endorses sewage treatment and outfall option (Revised) (5/1/1999)

1 January 1997

The following supersedes press release GIS990105018 issued at 5 pm today (Tuesday).

The full text of the press release is as follows:

ExCo endorses sewage treatment and outfall option

The Chief-Executive-in-Council today (Tuesday) directed that the second phase of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study for the treatment system and oceanic outfall to be built under stage II of the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme (SSDS) should assume that chemical treatment would be used, enhanced by disinfection, and that the outfall would be in the East Lamma Channel.

ExCo also directed that land should be reserved at the quarry on Lamma Island, pending consideration of upgrading the level of treatment, and that Hong Kong should continue to liaise with the Mainland authorities through the Expert Group on Sewage Disposal to consider what further work might be necessary to plan for the possible longer term development of the Scheme.

A Government spokesman said that the decisions had been made on the basis that:

a) upgrading the existing treatment plant at Stonecutters with disinfection systems and building an outfall to the East of Lamma would be the fastest way to address the severe water quality problem in the inner harbour area in an environmentally acceptable manner;

b) it would not involve any abortive expenditure if further studies either locally or with the Mainland Authorities indicated a need to increase the level of treatment or plan additional outfalls; and

c) reserving the land on Lamma Island would preserve the necessary flexibility to upgrade the system should this be necessary.

He added that in reaching these decisions, the Council had considered:

a) the options identified during phase I of the EIA study;

b) the state of sea water quality in the inner harbour and surrounding waters, and the urgency of measures to address pollution problems;

c) progress with stage I works for providing treatment to sewage from the main urban area; and

d) views presented by the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) and from academics, environmental NGOs, professional bodies and individual legislators during hearings arranged by the Environmental Affairs (EA) Panel of the Legislative Council.

"It was an important step towards giving the whole of Hong Kong an effective, modern sewage treatment system that would protect public health and the quality of local and regional waters," the spokesman emphasised.

He pointed out that the decisions had been made after lengthy and intensive study and consultations, both in Hong Kong and with counter-parts in the Mainland. The administration would seek to build on the co-operation with Mainland authorities that had been established during the project, so as to better co-ordinate efforts to protect regional water quality.

He welcomed the extensive discussions that had been held with the ACE and in the EA Panel during the consultation on the four environmentally acceptable options.

"They have been very helpful for building up understanding on all sides," he said.

The SSDS EIA study was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Department in May 1996.

"The consultants have now completed all the field survey work, and shortlisted four combinations of outfall locations and treatment levels that would be environmentally acceptable," he added.

The Administration briefed the ACE, the EA Panel, green groups, tertiary institutions and various professional bodies on the consultants' findings in September and October last year.

Also, the Expert Group on Sewage Disposal and its Technical Group, which were formed in July, 1998 between Hong Kong and the Mainland to take forward the discussions on SSDS, have each met twice to consider the consultants' findings.

At its second meeting, the Expert Group agreed that the four options identified were acceptable and that Option 1, i.e. the option endorsed by ExCo, should be recommended to the HKSAR Government for consideration.

It was further agreed that the selected option should not be seen necessarily as the final arrangement. In the long term, the selected option may need to be further improved or refined, by upgrading the treatment level or constructing a longer outfall.

"It is most important for the protection of public health and for the restoration of local water quality that we get a comprehensive treatment system in place as quickly as we can," he said.

"For the past decade or so there has been an inexorable increase in the concentration of bacteria in the Harbour. This is putting the health of a lot of people at risk."

"If the sewage is not dealt with there is a danger that the contamination will increase to such an extent that it begins to have a significant impact on our beaches," the spokesman added.

With the introduction of disinfection and a modern outfall system that will diffuse the treated effluent in deeper oceanic waters, we will be able to meet our present water quality objectives before the end of the next decade.

The other three options which the consultants have identified are:

Option 2 : chemical treatment plus disinfection with a discharge in the Lema Channel (in Mainland waters);

Option 3 : Biological BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) removal plus disinfection with a discharge east or west of Lamma;

Option 4 : Biological BOD and nutrient removal plus disinfection with a discharge east or west of Lamma.

End/Tuesday, January 5, 1999

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