• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 7:56am
NewsHong Kong

Victoria Harbour 'clean enough' without HK$30b sewage treatment upgrade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 3:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 7:52am

Hong Kong does not need a controversial HK$30 billion upgrade of its centralised wastewater treatment system as the water in the harbour is clean enough, at least for now, environment officials say.

They said the planned upgrade under the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) would deliver only marginal improvements to water quality in western Victoria Harbour and bring little benefit to near-shore pollution.

They said the priority was to cut off improperly connected pipes and crack down on unlawful discharges into the harbour off Central and Wan Chai. A consultancy study is being planned.

In a document filed to the Advisory Council on the Environment, officials said the current chemical-based treatment system was enough to meet most water quality objectives and stressed the upgrade to biological treatment was not "critical" at this stage.

The decision surprised one government adviser on the environment, who fears the upgrade has been declared "dead" and seemingly replaced by localised schemes.

"The two [near shore pollution and the upgrade] are different things. Are you taking this opportunity to declare the scheme dead?" asked Dr Hung Wing-tat, a member of the council.

Officials denied dropping the upgrade. "It is being put under review, taking into account the latest water quality conditions and new technology for wastewater treatment," Amy Yuen Wai-yin, assistant director of environmental protection, told the council yesterday.

Yuen said in terms of E coli levels close to the harbour's shores, the upgrade was "not an answer", citing water quality modelling results.

The upgrade was recommended by an international panel reviewing the city's sewage treatment strategy in 2002. It was shelved amid the Sars outbreak the following year and deteriorating fiscal conditions. Instead, officials opted to expand and improve the centralised treatment works on Stonecutters Island.

In 2007, the government promised to review the upgrade when they won legislators' support for an annual 9.3 per cent increase in sewage treatment charges for 10 years up to 2016.

The upgrade would boost the capacity of the treatment works to remove nutrients such as phosphates from effluent. Removing the nutrients, which cause red tides, would increase oxygen levels in the water, which would therefore sustain more marine organisms.

But the cost of the upgrade, according to the latest estimate based on 2012 prices, has almost tripled from the 2004 estimate of HK$11 billion to up to HK$30 billion.

At present, the Stonecutters plant adds chemicals such as ferric chloride to the waste water to remove pollutants. In 2010, chlorine-based disinfection was introduced to remove bacteria from the effluent. The plant handles about 1.8 million cubic metres of waste water a year.

Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, another council member, said officials should clarify to what extent illegal discharges and improperly connected pipes contributed to water pollution. He questioned whether the upgrade would have the intended effect, as improvements might be offset by cross-border pollution.



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This article is now closed to comments

They want the $30 billion for the third runway in order to ensure all the dolphins are killed and to provide Cathay with enough space to park all their underutilized cargo planes.
And then in future when a better water cleaning facilities ARE needed, they will first launch a public consultation and by the time any kind of upgrading work is in progress it will A) hopelessly late to correct the situation, and B) outdated / of insufficient efficiency / delayed in completion. Way to go, officials!
This is Hong Kong politics today. Legislators care too much about Occupy Central and forgot the PEOPLE. Ordinary people want a clean living environment and a clean harbour with clean water. Are the Legislators Pro sewage treatment or Anti sewage treatment?
With obsolete, dirty incinerator technology being forced upon us in order to benefit special interests, a dishonest EIA for the 3rd runway and all the shoddy conclusions about waste disposal, air and water quality being disseminated it seems that no-one trusts the Environment Bureau, unless you are one of the cronies who stand to gain from the lucrative contracts.
The whole process is so corrupted by political and business considerations, the public has no way of knowing where the truth lies.
The water in HK sucks. These guys must drink bottle water and travel a lot.
You know this is a bad decision when everybody in the SCMP comments section agrees.
HK's water is the worst I have seen in 36 years... even out in Clearwater Bay it is ugly as tides take out harbour water and SW winds blow it down toward Sai Kung.
Some questions -
What is the HK population ?
What is the population of all visitors, tourist to HK?
Most visitors/tourists/package tour groups stay in the city... TST, Wanchai, Causeway Bay and North Point.
I can say its a lot more extra S**T, as well as Phosphates, cleaning bleaches, soaps, microbeads, plastic to cope with the day in day out tourism industry
Beware that the Hong Kong Water Supplies Department adds fluroide to the tap water. Fluoride is harmful to human health. fluoridealert.org
Improving air quality and water quality is a total no brainer for Hong Kong. It will benefit everyone, no matter poor or rich. The excuse given that costs are going up is complete bogus, the majority of that is because of inflation of the money supply which is ultimately caused by the government policies themselves, notably the currency peg and low interest rates. Meanwhile, they are collecting more tax revenue as a result of inflation. The public should get the benefit from that. The fact that cross border pollution can offset local improvements is absolutely ridiculous. Of course the Mainland must improve its pollution handling as well in every aspect. Hong Kong should take the lead and not be a follower and show the entire Mainland China how to do it.
That distinction makes me a pro sewage treatment hardliner :)



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