LCQ19: Village sewerage
In 2015, among the 71 river monitoring stations set up by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) across the territory, the average levels of Escherichia coli (E coli) recorded at 63 stations exceeded the relevant statutory water quality objectives. As pointed out by the EPD, the possible causes for such situation include the unsatisfactory septic-tank-and-soakaway systems installed for some houses in unsewered villages, and direct connection, by some village house owners, of their houses' sewers to stormwater drains. Quite a number of villagers have relayed to me that there are at present a number of unsewered villages and that some villagers are unable to connect their houses' sewers to public sewers due to financial and/or technical difficulties. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has assessed the impacts of the aforesaid exceedance of E coli level in rivers on public health in the past three years;
(2) of the respective current numbers of villages in respect of which works on connecting public sewers (i) have been completed, (ii) are being carried out, and (iii) are planned to be carried out within the coming three years, and set out one by one the names and locations of these villages and the numbers of houses therein;
(3) in respect of each of the villages which have been connected to public sewers, of the current percentage of households that have not connected their houses' sewers to the public sewers; and
(4) whether it has examined the provision of loans or subsidies to villagers with financial difficulties and the provision of more support to villagers who have encountered technical difficulties, so as to help such villagers connect their houses' sewers to the public sewers?
The Environment Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) attach great importance to the protection and improvement of our river water quality. Since 1980s, the EPD has been pursuing a multi-pronged approach to improve our river water quality in an efficient and cost-effective manner, through implementation of environmental laws and the Sewage Master Plans (SMPs) for the whole territory. Hong Kong's river environment has substantially improved, with 84 per cent of Hong Kong rivers graded "Good" or "Excellent" in 2016, as compared with 26 per cent in 1987. The Escherichia coli (E coli) level of our rivers has also reduced by 80 per cent during the same period.
Our reply to the questions raised by Hon Kenneth Lau is as follows:
(1) The majority of Hong Kong's inland waters are intended for stormwater conveyance and flood prevention purposes, and the water quality generally will not pose any risk to public health. The main channel of Shing Mun River is the only watercourse used for water sports and recreation activities, where the relevant Water Quality Objective (WQO) on E coli is set as not exceeding 1 000 counts per 100 millilitres. In the last 10 years, its water quality has been graded as "Excellent" with a geometric mean E coli level of 900 counts per 100 millilitres.
(2) As at May 2017, we have completed the public sewerage network for 207 villages and the construction works for another 62 villages are underway. In addition, we are working on the plans to provide public sewerage for 259 villages, of which the statutory gazettal procedures for 26 villages are either completed or in progress. The relevant details are at Annex. As regards the number of village sewerage projects to be carried out in the next three years, it would depend on the resources to be allocated to the Government public works programme in future.
(3) As at March 2017, the overall sewer connection rate of the built village houses in those villages provided with public sewers is about 89 per cent. To complete the outstanding sewer connection works as soon as possible, the EPD will enhance communication with village representatives and village house owners, and actively follow up and assist the villagers to resolve technical and engineering problems.
(4) In order to facilitate the premise owners to make house connections to the public sewer and to reduce their expenses, it has been our objective to provide public sewerage network to cover all village houses and extend the branch sewers to private lot boundaries as far as practicable. The house owners with financial difficulties may apply for the grant or loan schemes offered by the Government and other organizations, such as the "Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners" operated by the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) and the "Comprehensive Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme" managed by the Buildings Department (BD) to carry out their sewer connection works. House owners may contact the HKHS and the BD for details of the relevant scheme and application eligibility. The EPD and the Drainage Services Department will also provide relevant information and referral assistance to the house owners.
Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:30
Issued at HKT 16:30