The Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau, Dr Sarah Liao, today (June 21) announced the commencement of a four-month public consultation exercise for the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) Stage 2.
"HATS Stage 1 is now treating 75% of the sewage generated from both sides of the Victoria Harbour. The remaining 25% of our sewage is still being discharged into the Harbour almost untreated. This is not sustainable environmentally. We need to implement HATS Stage 2," Dr Liao said.
Stage II will comprise:
* Extension of the deep tunnel network to collect and convey sewage from the remaining parts of Hong Kong Island for proper treatment;
* Expansion of the existing chemical treatment capacity from the present design level of 1.7 million cubic metres daily to 2.8 million cubic metres;
* Provision of disinfection to all HATS treated effluent before the effluent is discharged into the harbour; and
* Upgrading to biological treatment for all HATS flows.
"In order to bring further improvement to our harbour as early as possible, we recommend implementing Stage 2 in two phases by completing Stage 2A at the earliest possible time.
"Stage 2A, which will comprise extension of the deep tunnel network, expansion of the existing chemical treatment capacity and provision of disinfection, will cost $8.4 billion to construct and $0.44 billion per year to operate. We are now aiming to complete upgrading of the sewage treatment facilities by 2011-12. The more challenging tunnelling works are expected to be completed by 2013-14."
"By completing Stage 2A, we will be able to achieve most of our water quality criteria in the majority of the harbour area, thereby leading to a healthier marine environment. This shall enable us to re-open and sustain the public enjoyment of all the Tsuen Wan beaches as well as to conduct ad hoc events such as cross-harbour swims."
Dr Liao said with population growth and sewage flow build-up, Stage 2B is needed. Under Stage 2B, the Administration intends to build biological treatment facilities at a site in the vicinity of the existing Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (SCISTW). The facilities are proposed to be built underground to allow for other uses / co-development on top. Stage 2B will cost $11.1 billion to construct and $0.72 billion to operate.
"The Government is fully committed to Stage 2B even though we propose to implement it when the actual need arises. To demonstrate our commitment, we will not only closely monitor the actual sewage flow build up and harbour water quality monitoring results, but also make preparations for Stage 2B in parallel with implementation of Stage 2A.
"The biological treatment facilities under Stage 2B are both complex and costly and we need to find extra space for them. It is therefore prudent and important to allow ourselves more time to plan them carefully so that we can build the right system in a cost-effective manner to serve the long term needs of Hong Kong. An equally important consideration is that we do not wish to let the planning of Stage 2B hold up the commencement of Stage 2A, thereby delaying the improvement to our harbour water quality."
HATS Stage 1 is now collecting and treating the sewage collected from the entire Kowloon, Tseung Kwan O and part of Hong Kong Island including Chai Wan and Shau Kei Wan. As the key component of HATS, the SCISTW is one of the most efficient chemical treatment plants in the world, with an organic pollutant removal rate exceeding 70%. It is now treating 1.4 million cubic metres of sewage and effectively stopping 600 tonnes of sludge from entering the harbour every day.
Since the full implementation of HATS Stage 1 in December, 2001, the harbour water quality has improved significantly. The compliance for the dissolved oxygen water quality objective in the harbour area has increased from an average of 55% in 1992-2001 to 97% in 2002-2003. The level of pollutants in the harbour have also decreased significantly, with toxic ammonia level decreased by 25% and E. coli level, which is an indicator of disease-causing bacteria, decreased by 50% overall.
In 2000, the Government invited an International Review Panel (IRP) to carry out a review of further stages of HATS. The IRP proposed four configuration options for siting the sewage treatment facilities assuming different degrees of decentralisation and recommended the Government to carry out a series of trials and studies (the Studies) to determine the way forward.
Of the four options, the Government prefers Option A, i.e. to transfer all the sewage to the Stonecutters Island for centralised treatment because it is the most cost effective, technically sound, socially acceptable and environmentally friendly one.
Although Stage 1 has brought about significant water quality improvements in the harbour area and its positive impact has reached as far as Shek O beach, the beaches at Tsuen Wan are still being affected by local discharges and un-disinfected effluent from the SCISTW, rendering them not suitable for swimming.
To alleviate the problem, the administration proposes to expedite part of the disinfection facilities of Stage 2A for completion by 2008-09 to enable the early re-opening of the Tsuen Wan beaches.
Dr Liao stressed that sewage treatment was always costly and a fair cost sharing arrangement in line with the Polluter-Pays principle would need to be worked out at a later stage. There is a need to forge a general consensus within the community and the public is encouraged to give their views and comments on the way forward for HATS.
The four-month public consultation exercise on HATS Stage 2 will last until October 20. In-depth briefings will be provided to key stakeholders such as green groups, academics, professional bodies and community representatives. A public hearing will also be held to collect the views of the public directly on the proposed way forward for HATS Stage 2.
Details of the Studies and the consultation document can be downloaded from the website: http://www.cleanharbour.gov.hk. The consultation document is also available at the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau, the Environmental Protection Department and all District Offices.
Ends/Monday, June 21, 2004