'Greens' to help monitor water quality

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 12:00am

Watchdog groups have been promised a say in the inspection of the quality of water pumped in from the mainland.

The move comes amid growing unease over the quality of water in the Dongjiang, or East River, in Guangdong - a major source of Hong Kong's drinking water.

An Open University study last year showed a rise in cancer-causing pollutants in the river.

Taxpayers paid $27 million in 1995 and 1997 for extra facilities in Hong Kong's treatment plants.

A committee on water quality including academics, green groups and laymen will be set up next month.

The advisory body will monitor the Water Supplies Department's water treatment works and advise on measures to upgrade water quality.

Secretary for Works Lee Shing-see said yesterday the move was also aimed at opening up more of the department's work and encouraging public participation.

But Mr Lee said it was natural that the quality of raw water was worse than treated water and all that mattered was that the quality of water after treatment was of a high standard.

Director of Water Supplies Hugh Phillipson also told legislators at yesterday's special Finance Committee meeting that the quality of water from the Dongjiang was among the highest in China.

A spokesman for the Shenzhen Water Affairs Bureau said the water quality of the Shenzhen Reservoir, where Dongjiang water is stored before being pumped to Hong Kong, remained satisfactory.

Emily Lau Wai-hing, of The Frontier, asked Mr Phillipson why as much as $67.4 million had been budgeted to buy chemicals to purify water.

'Does it indicate the quality of our water is getting worse?' she asked.

Mr Phillipson argued it was normal to use chemicals to treat raw water.

He also told lawmakers that it was normal for 26.4 per cent of fresh water to leak away a year because of mains problems.

He said the problem in the SAR was no worse than elsewhere in the world and the situation was improving. The leakage rate in 1996 was 29.9 per cent.