Allaying health fears over incinerator

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 3:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 3:45am

The information Massimo Massarola provided in his letter ("Incinerator will pose risk to residents", December 11) may be related to old incineration plants before the implementation of the stringent European Union Directive.

Recent international reviews show that well-managed and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators do not pose the sort of risk to public health that he alleges.

For instance, the German environment ministry concluded that waste-to-energy plants operating in conformity with EU standards pose such low risks that they can be classified as causing only negligible health risks for the population living in the vicinity.

Likewise, the executive agency of Britain's Department of Health (Public Health England) noted last month that modern, well-managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollution and the effects on health are likely to be very small and not detectable.

Hong Kong's integrated waste management facility will be designed to meet EU standards and industry-best practices, including using very high heat flue gas combustion and an advanced multiple flue gas cleansing system.

The facility will reduce the volume of waste by 90 per cent. We will also ensure it is well-managed.

It will be equipped, among others, with baghouse filters to remove fly ash and other particulates from the flue gas.

This is the best available technology to control the PM2.5 emission and can achieve a removal efficiency of over 99 per cent.

The fly ash and air pollution control residue collected will be pre-treated by cement solidification in the facility before landfill disposal so that the pollutants in the ash would not leach out to the environment.

The facility's environmental impact assessment also included human health impacts assessment.

The cancer risk arising from exposure to compounds of potential concern and the cumulative acute non-carcinogenic health impact arising from the facility are insignificant.

These findings have been reviewed and accepted by the Department of Health.

We will set up a transparent monitoring system so that the public can be kept informed about emissions from the facility.

Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection