Consultant insists risk from aviation fuel tanks acceptable

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 2007, 12:00am

Potential risk to life in the event of a total failure of aviation fuel tanks proposed in Tuen Mun is 'acceptable', according to an assessment commissioned by the Airport Authority.

It stresses the chance of having an instantaneous leak from the storage would be low, but opponents yesterday disputed the findings. They argued such a facility would threaten the safety of people working and living nearby.

The authority's conclusion came as it made its second attempt to secure an environmental permit after losing a legal battle to a group of workers from a steel mill located next to the proposed aviation fuel site.

Storage construction was halted after the Court of Final Appeal overturned the previous permit issued by the director of the Environmental Protection Department.

The court ruled in July last year that the authority's risk assessment failed to provide a quantitative risk assessment based on the scenarios of a total failure of the tanks.

In its latest report, the authority's consultant concluded the risk was 'acceptable', after considering several causes that could potentially lead to a total failure.

Six possible causes were identified: brittle failure, defective welds, internal explosion, earthquake, external causes such as sabotage or a terrorist attack, and aircraft impact.

Apart from terrorist attack and aircraft impact, the other possibilities had occurred overseas, the report said. But the authority said all these possible causes had a low chance of occurrence or posed a negligible threat that could be sufficiently mitigated by storage design.

The Shiu Wing Steel workers, who formed a concern group and won a court case, expressed strong regret and dissatisfaction with the latest assessment.

'We are strongly dissatisfied with the conclusion. No threat and risk to personal safety can be regarded as acceptable,' said the group's spokesman, Ho Ping-kei.

The group said about 300 workers were at the mill - which is 56 metres from the proposed site - and were involved in high-temperature operations that could become dangerous in case of fuel spillage or an explosion.

A spokeswoman for the authority would not comment on the assessment as it was still to be scrutinised by the government.

The public has 30 days from yesterday to respond to the report, which is posted on the department website.