So Victoria Harbour is not yet fit for swimming after all. That is a disappointment for all those who have fond memories of the cross-harbour race, last held in 1978, and hope that it can be staged again soon. On the back of advice that the level of bacteria in the harbour had dropped by 90 per cent since the completion of the first stage of a sewage treatment scheme that cost $8.2 billion, the Amateur Swimming Association had hoped to hold the race this summer. But their hopes were dashed yesterday when officials revealed that substantial improvement to water quality in the harbour would not be evident until 2015. Alas, despite the scores of studies that have already been undertaken, yet more studies will have to be conducted to find the best way forward. But while the delay is disappointing, it should come as no surprise. Since it was first mooted in the late 1980s, the gigantic scheme to clean up the harbour has encountered numerous financial, political and technical problems. The original plan was to pipe all kinds of sewage generated on both sides of the harbour to a treatment facility at Stonecutters Island, where it would be given primary treatment and then discharged into the South China Sea through a deep-sea tunnel. But the dumping of partially treated sewage in the ocean was denounced by environmentalists and neighbouring Guangdong province. At one stage, the scheme even attracted the attention of Beijing, which raised suspicions over the departing colonial administration's motives for leaving behind a huge treatment plant of dubious value. A panel of international experts was then invited to assess the project and it came up with several alternatives to give the sewage secondary treatment through various chemical or biological methods. It was also suggested that building a number of small treatment plants might be a better option than having one big facility in Stonecutters. Meanwhile, the contractors hired to build underground pipes to channel sewage to Stonecutters ran into unexpected technical problems and were involved in drawn out disputes with the Government on who should be held responsible. In view of the project's chequered path so far, the community is rightly concerned that it may run into yet more problems. Officials argue that the additional studies are necessary to ensure the big money to be spent on the chosen treatment method will serve Hong Kong best. They had better be right. The public's patience is wearing thin.