Sarah Liao rejects call for Tamar dioxin tests

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am

Lawmakers keep up pressure for probe following a study claiming high levels

The environment minister has rejected calls to test for dioxin at Tamar, saying the claim the site contained excessive amounts of the toxin is unfounded.

'We do not conduct a test because of rumours,' Sarah Liao Sau-tung said.

Dr Liao was speaking a day after Laurie Wan Shek-luen gave members of the Civic Party his study from 1993, which claimed high levels of dioxin were present in marine sediment near Tamar.

Political parties remained firm in their support for the project, making it all but certain Legco's Finance Committee will vote to approve the government's $5.1 billion funding request on Friday.

But copies of the report remain hard to get and seemed to have contributed to uncertainty on the part of lawmakers over the need to run tests.

Dr Wan yesterday gave copies to the Legislative Council Secretariat but attached a letter asserting his copyright. The secretariat refused to distribute the copies to lawmakers, citing the letter.

Dr Liao said regular studies carried out by the government and City University scientists in 2002 found the dioxin level was 30 to 50 times lower than the international permissible level.

There was also no reason to believe that burning or heavy industrial activities had taken place at the former British naval base, she said.

The construction of the government headquarters would not dig more than 10 metres below current land level and the future basement would remain above the seabed.

Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit last night said that the government was irresponsible for refusing to conduct a dioxin test at the site.

'I'm concerned whether the site is safe for people to work at. The chief executive and his office will be there,' he said. 'I'm also concerned how much it would cost to remove the dioxin from the site.'

He said the government wanted to bulldoze the project through. 'Anything that is not on its side must be gotten rid of.'

Some legislators called for a special meeting to discuss the issue before the Finance Committee considered the funding request. But the proposal was rejected.

Independent lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said he was disappointed many legislators dismissed the request without having first seen the report.

'It's meaningless to argue whether dioxin exists at the site. Why doesn't the government run some tests at the site to solve the problem?'

Choy So-yuk, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it was wrong to conclude the dioxin levels at Tamar were unsafe simply because no tests had been conducted.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said that the party's nine legislators would stand firm in backing the government project.