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LCQ13: Water quality at New Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter

     Following is a question by the Hon James To and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     Residents in the vicinity of the New Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter (NYMTTS) have been incessantly complaining to me in recent years that the water quality at NYMTTS is poor and the stenches emitted from NYMTTS have caused great nuisance to them.  They have also pointed out that as the measures (e.g. regular clearing of marine mud) taken by the Government to improve water quality have been ineffective, and the works for improving the sewerage in West Kowloon and Tsuen Wan (the planning work of which started in 2010) have not yet commenced, the aforesaid problem has remained unresolved.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the number of complaints received by the Government in the past three years from members of the public that the stenches emitted from NYMTTS had caused nuisance to them;

(2) of the average levels of Escherichia coli ( E coli) in the marine water samples taken at NYMTTS by the Environmental Protection Department each month in the past three years, and how such data compare with the relevant water quality standards;

(3) of the latest progress of the aforesaid improvement works; the interim measures to be taken by the Government to further improve the water quality in NYMTTS prior to the completion of the improvement works;

(4) whether it has studied why the odour problem in NYMTTS has not been resolved so far, and whether the sewage discharged by ocean carriers berthed at waters west of Kowloon is one of the sources of the stenches emitted from NYMTTS; and

(5) whether it has studied the relocation of the public cargo working area adjacent to NYMTTS in order to alleviate the odour problem in NYMTTS; if it has, of the plans; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government is committed to improving the water quality of Victoria Harbour.  Over the past two decades, we have progressively implemented the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) to collect and treat sewage generated in areas around Victoria Harbour, including Kowloon, Tsuen Wan and most parts of Hong Kong Island.  Upon full commissioning of HATS Stage 2A in December 2015, all sewage generated in areas around the harbour has been intercepted and diverted to the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works for centralised treatment.  However, there are still residual polluting discharges entering certain coastal waters of Victoria Harbour, even causing odour problems.

     The Environmental Protection Department (EPD), in collaboration with other relevant departments, has been taking various actions including law enforcement, publicity and education, as well as engineering measures to reduce residual polluting discharges entering Victoria Harbour.  However, many of these residual polluting discharges originate from various activities in old districts and the causes would differ among different areas.  While efforts among the departments have mitigated the problem caused by residual polluting discharges, it is not adequate to keep the problem totally under control.  EPD hence commissioned a consultancy study in January 2016 to identify the specific causes of nearshore pollution through evidence-based reviews and various analyses, based on which targeted solutions and measures through prevention at source and pollution control would be identified.

     Regarding the questions raised by the Hon James To:

(1) In the past three years, the Government received three complaints from members of the public about the odour problem of the New Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter (NYMTTS).

(2) The main function of typhoon shelters is to ensure that there is sufficient suitable space within Hong Kong waters for local vessels and small visiting vessels to take refuge during passage of typhoons or inclement weather.  There is no corresponding water quality objective on the E coli level for typhoon shelters.  Nevertheless, EPD takes marine water samples from typhoon shelters on a bi-monthly basis for monitoring purpose.  The E coli counts would fluctuate with the weather and other factors.  On the whole, the annual geometric mean E coli level of the NYMTTS has progressively dropped from 11 000 counts per 100ml in 2001 to about 3 000 to 6 769 counts per 100ml in recent years.  The E coli counts in marine water samples taken at the NYMTTS by EPD in the past three years are set out in the Annex.

(3) We are planning a series of sewerage upgrading works, including the installation of a dry weather flow interceptor (DWFI) at the Cherry Street Box Culvert to intercept polluted flow from entering the NYMTTS, the improvement and upgrading of 43 existing DWFIs in West Kowloon, and the installation of four new DWFIs each in Tsuen Wan and West Kowloon at critical locations.  These engineering measures will help reduce residual polluting discharges entering Victoria Harbour and improve the water quality and odour problem of the NYMTTS.

     The detailed design work for the DWFI at the Cherry Street Box Culvert has been completed while that for the improvement and upgrading of existing DWFIs in West Kowloon and the installation of new DWFIs at critical locations in Tsuen Wan and West Kowloon will be completed in the second quarter this year.  The Government will prepare the cost estimate and implementation programme for the projects and will seek funding approval from the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in accordance with the procedures for Public Works Programmes.

     The government departments concerned will also continue with the ongoing pollution control measures as follows:

(i) The EPD, the Buildings Department (BD) and the Drainage Services Department (DSD) will jointly follow up and rectify foul water pipe misconnection cases.  Misconnected foul water pipes within buildings are unauthorised building works.  The BD will take enforcement action in accordance with the Buildings Ordinance and the prevailing enforcement policy;

(ii) The EPD will watch out for illegal discharge during routine inspections and take enforcement action against non-compliance with the Water Pollution Control Ordinance;

(iii) The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will seek to tackle illegal discharge of wastewater into storm water drains in order to reduce the amount of pollutants entering storm water drains;

(iv) The DSD will carry out inspection, repair and clearing of sediments of public sewer and storm drainage systems on a regular basis;

(v) The FEHD and the Highways Department will provide routine rubbish cleansing services for public places and streets, as well as regular clearing of sediments in gully traps to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the storm drainage system;

(vi) The Marine Department (MD) cleans up floating refuse and provides free refuse collection service for vessels berthing in typhoon shelters on a daily basis to prevent potential odour generated by marine refuse.

     The aforementioned study on nearshore pollution covers the waters of West Kowloon.  The Government will take immediate measures to deal with any pollution sources identified in the study, without waiting for completion of the full study.

(4) The NYMTTS is a semi-enclosed water body that has limited self-cleaning ability and low tidal flushing capacity.  In addition, the densely-populated coastal areas have been developed for many years.  Misconnections of foul water pipes from buildings and public sewers to the storm drainage system, as well as street-side pollutants that enter the storm drainage system could cause pollution problem.  EPD's study on nearshore pollution will identify the specific causes of and solutions to nearshore pollution through in-situ monitoring, investigations and analyses.

     Only those ocean-going vessels equipped with a sewage treatment plant that complies with international requirements and has a valid International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate may discharge properly treated domestic sewage into Hong Kong waters.  The MD will also arrange for government surveyor to conduct spot check on ocean-going vessels visiting Hong Kong so as to ensure that the sewage treatment plant on board is operating properly. Therefore the discharge of sewage by ocean-going vessels should not cause odour problem.

(5) The Government has just completed a comprehensive review on the six Public Cargo Working Areas (PCWAs) in Hong Kong.  The findings of the review indicate that the PCWAs have been playing an important economic role, thus it is necessary to maintain their operation.  The industry has a strong demand for the operation of the New Yau Ma Tei PCWA and its occupancy rate has all along stood at 100 per cent.  At present, due to the lack of suitable sea frontage at an alternative site, the Government has no plan to relocate the New Yau Ma Tei PCWA at this stage.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:56


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