Typhoon dumps plastic pellets on beach

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Severe Typhoon Vicente didn't just fell more than 1,000 trees across the city, it also delivered some strange packages to a seaside community.

Strong winds and waves washed about 200 bags of raw plastic pellets onto a Lantau beach yesterday.

Discovery Bay residents found the bags of polypropylene scattered at different spots on Sam Pak Wan Beach and called the government for help.

Some of the bags - weighing 25kg each - had come undone, spilling plastic pellets on the beach and between the rocks. Environmental groups fear the pellets may wash back during high tides and be eaten by marine creatures.

It remains uncertain where the bags came from, although markings on them indicated they could be have been produced by Sinopec's petrochemical refinery in Hainan . There were no signs of shipwrecks nearby.

By yesterday afternoon, about 30 bags had been removed and stored at a refuse collection station. 'We will keep the bags for a while to see if we can identify the owners,' a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department was also involved.

But Tracy Read, from community environmental group DB Green, wants Sinopec to get involved, too. 'We tried to call them in the morning to talk to their environmental protection people and ask them to do something about the pellet spills. But they said they were too busy,' she said.

Read recently returned from a sailing trip to study plastic pollution in the North Pacific and the floating debris produced by last year's earthquake in Japan.

Gary Stokes, from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, also said Sinopec should take the bags back.

A spokeswoman for Sinopec's public-relations agency in Hong Kong said the petrochemical giant did not have any operations in Hong Kong, and hoped whoever owned the plastic would reclaim it.

Polypropylene is mainly used for producing plastic products and costs more than US$1,300 per tonne on the international market, which means the 200 bags could be worth more than US$6,500.

As Hong Kong deals with the aftermath of Severe Typhoon Vicente, CLP Power has also been asked to submit a report on the collapse of a coal conveyor at its Castle Peak power plant, which led to the closure of four generating units.

A section of the overhanging belt linking the coal stock to the station fell from a height of about 50 metres on Wednesday. No one was hurt.

The power firm is now finalising a contingency plan to restore electricity production in the affected units, but expects a full recovery to take weeks to months. It said power supply to the city would not be affected.

A spokesman for the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department said the department sent engineers to inspect the site yesterday and had asked CLP Power to file a report within a month.

Meanwhile, a heavy rainstorm yesterday flooded roads in Sai Kung. A section of Hiram's Highway near Ho Chung was closed temporarily after a minibus got stuck in the flood.