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Progress of cleaning up palm oil
     The Government today (August 7) continued to clean up the palm oil dispersed on at sea, shorelines and beaches after the vessel collision in the Pearl River Estuary.
     As at 12 noon today, the Marine Department (MD), the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) collected over 50 tonnes of palm oil recovered on the sea surface and at the beaches since reported last Saturday (August 5).
     Apart from the scavenging vessels deployed for routine cleanup of floating refuse in the territory, the MD has specifically arranged nine vessels and two foreshore cleansing teams to enhance the cleanup of palm oil in the western and southern part of Hong Kong waters. The LCSD, FEHD and AFCD have also stepped up cleaning efforts at beaches and coastal areas under their respective purviews.
     The FEHD has arranged to inspect 16 non-gazetted beaches and assisted in cleaning up the pollutants on shore.  It collected 110 bags of palm oil waste at Nga Kau Wan in Lamma Island. The FEHD also found small amount of pollutant at Pat Kan Beach, which is next to St. Stephen’s Beach in Stanley in Southern District, and completed the corresponding cleanup operation in the afternoon today. The FEHD will continue to monitor the cleanliness condition of non-gazetted beaches and conduct cleanup operations.
     The Government Flying Service assisted today in tracking the where-about of the dispersed palm oil and immediately notified the suspected affected locations for relevant departments to cleanup. All relevant departments will continue to monitor the dispersion of the palm oil and promptly step up the cleaning efforts.
     The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has arranged to collect water samples from beaches concerned to test for their oil content.  The results would be ready by evening tomorrow (August 8). Palm oil is non-toxic and harmless, commonly found in food packing materials and cosmetics. Nevertheless, considering the large amount of palm oil solid and foam washed onto the beaches and that the testing results are not yet available, 11 bathing beaches including Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Lo So Shing Beach, Pui O Beach, Upper Cheung Sha Beach, Lower Cheung Sha Beach, Tong Fuk Beach, Repulse Bay Beach, Middle Bay Beach, South Bay Beach, Chung Hom Kok Beach and St. Stephen’s Beach will remain closed until further notice for the sake of safety. The LCSD has hoisted red flags at the aforementioned beaches. In addition, it has also posted up notice at prominent locations and broadcasted announcement advising swimmers to go back to the shore and not to swim. The staff at the beaches concerned have immediately applied oil absorbent blankets and strips to prevent the dispersion of the floating oil and notified the relevant government departments for oil cleanup and water quality monitoring at the beaches concerned. The LCSD has already issued a press release to advise the members of the public to avoid swimming at the beaches concerned.
     Upon receipt of notification on August 5, the AFCD has immediately approached the mariculturists in the vicinity to get to know the situation of the fish culture zones. The AFCD has also inspected the fish culture zones in Lantau, Lamma Island, Po Toi and Ma Wan to communicate with the mariculturists yesterday and today. At the inspection today, small amount of palm oil was found in Lo Tik Wan fish culture zone and waters near Po Toi. The AFCD has referred the case to the MD for cleanup. No mariculturist was found to be affected by the incident. The AFCD will continue to monitor the impact on the fishing industry and the marine environment.
     All the five marine parks including the Sha Chau and Lung Kwu Chau Marine Park and the Brothers Marine Park in North Lantau waters were not affected by the incident. After spotting small amount of palm oil at the water surface and beach in the Cape D’Aguilar Marine Reserve, the AFCD has arranged its contractor for cleanup at once and notified the Pollution Control Unit of the MD for follow-up. The AFCD will continue to closely monitor the condition of every marine parks and marine reserve and take actions when necessary.
     A Government spokesman indicated that all relevant government departments will continue to collaborate, closely monitor the incident and complete the cleanup operations as soon as practicable to minimise the impact on the environment, food safety and human health.
Ends/Monday, August 7, 2017
Issued at HKT 22:55
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