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LCQ2: The safety and environmental issues of oil depots

    Following is a question by the Hon Lau Wong-fat and a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):


     Regarding the safety of oil depots in Hong Kong, as well as the impact of incidents at these depots on human life, property and the environment, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the distribution of oil depots in the territory and their respective sizes;

(b) whether it has assessed the safety problem of these oil depots, as well as the impact on human life, property and the environment in cases of explosion or leakage; if it has, of the outcome of the assessment; and

(c) how the authorities prevent the contamination of water sources by the fallout brought down by precipitation in the wake of the above incidents, resulting in the ecology of rivers and streams being upset by the contaminants, and check if underground water and rivers have been contaminated?


Madam President,

(a) As fuel stored in oil depots is one of the dangerous goods regulated under the Dangerous Goods Ordinance (Cap 295), operators of oil depots are required to apply to the Fire Services Department (FSD) for a licence for the storage of dangerous goods.  There are currently 11 large-scale oil storage facilities in Hong Kong.  Their distribution and respective size are at Annex.

(b) The above 11 oil depots all meet the relevant environmental protection requirements.  Although they had started operation before the commencement of the Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance (Cap. 499) (i.e. before April 1, 1998), and are thus exempted projects under the Ordinance, the proponents of eight of these facilities had carried out administrative environmental studies to assess their environmental impact.  In future, all proposals on the construction of large-scale oil depots will have to undergo the statutory environmental impact assessment.

     Moreover, according to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG), oil depots classified as potentially hazardous installations (PHIs) are subject to a separate hazard assessment (HA) to assess their level of off-site individual and societal risks.  The HA will take into account elements like the nature of the hazardous substances (such as their inflammability or toxicity) and the likely failure events (such as explosion and leakage). It will identify potential incidents at the PHI and produce calculations of individual risk and societal risk.  It will also assess the risks posed by the PHI on the present and future population in its vicinity, and determine what actions can be taken to reduce such risks. HAs had been carried out for the existing oil depots in Hong Kong classified as PHIs, and all of these oil depots comply with the Government's risk guidelines.

     As regards the operation of oil depots, upon receipt of an application for a licence, FSD will conduct an on-site risk assessment at the proposed site for the oil depot according to internationally recognised fire safety standards.  Factors that will be taken into account in the assessment include the availability of emergency vehicular access, adequacy of water supply for fire fighting (e.g. street hydrants) at the site, and distance between the oil depot and the neighbourhood such as domestic premises.  Subject to the site meeting the fire safety standards, FSD will require the operator to provide appropriate fire service installations and equipment at the oil depot to minimise its risks.

(c) The Government will start with the control on sitting to minimise the possibility of major incidents and the impacts on the environment (including the water sources) in the vicinity.  Besides, operators of oil depots must apply for a licence from FSD and equip the oil depots with appropriate fire service installations and equipment before they can operate.

     FSD has a contingency plan in place for each large-scale oil depot to deal with various emergencies (including fire, explosion, oil leakage, etc).  It also conducts regular exercises and drills with the oil depots.  In case of an emergency, FSD will, taking the circumstances of the incident into account, immediately contact the relevant departments including the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Marine Department, Water Supplies Department and Drainage Services Department, etc. to take appropriate response measures.

     As for the possible contamination of water sources, EPD will assist to assess the environmental implications of the incident, determine the need and scope for collecting environmental samples, advise on the prevention of further environmental pollution, and assist the departments concerned in the disposal of dangerous goods waste.  As part of the assessment, EPD will take water samples for analysis as appropriate to ensure that the ecology of the affected rivers and streams will not be upset.  If the ecology of seashores or rivers is affected, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department will assess the ecological impact and, in conjunction with relevant government departments, implement response measures, such as helping to remove the contaminants and protecting living creatures that may be affected, to minimise the ecological damage caused by the incident.

Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Issued at HKT 12:31


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