District Councillor Christine Fong reports on her recent visit to the damaged Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works
The damage caused by Typhoon Mangkhut can be seen everywhere in Hong Kong. Across the city, many thousands of trees collapsed, hundreds of windows were smashed, vessels and dinghies battered and even worse, many local and external transport services were almost paralysed, fortunately without serious casualties.
The Sai Kung sewage treatment plant has also been found to have suffered serious damage, with some of the pipes and facilities so badly damaged that the plant could only maintain its primary sewage treatment service, where solid waste is removed by filtering, the removal of grit and a simple sedimentation process.
A suspension of all services except the basic treatment means raw sewage has been leaking into the sea. Seawater quality in the vicinity is still deteriorating. Chief Executive Carrie Lam inspected the plant on 24 September, saying the Drainage Services Department (DSD) is now collecting water samples regularly to monitor the water quality nearby. But the water quality in the vicinity of the plant rated as “Poor” according to the latest level of e-coli in the water. Because of the deterioration in seawater quality, people have been asked not to swim, fish or engage in any water sports in certain areas.
Despite the close monitoring now taking place, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the DSD did not immediately inform the public about the leaking of sewage after the mauling on Sunday 16th, but took four days, resulting in the government being accused of delays in reporting the sewage leak. The problem of the sewage works not being fit for purpose with the growing population of Sai Kung, as well as the endless discussion, without any decision, on the feasibility of relocating Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works into a cavern has exacerbated the problem. *
Super Typhoon Mangkhut was the strongest storm to ever hit Hong Kong, and left a trail of destruction. When the typhoon was approaching the city, the government held a rare joint press conference on Super Typhoon Mangkhut, asking members of public to take all precautionary measures. Yet, the chaotic traffic conditions after the catastrophe sparked great public outrage and the government has been under fire for the post-storm arrangement.
Though the monster storm caused widespread impact and damage across the city, it has given us a rare opportunity for solidarity. People in the community joined hands for massive cleanup. However, some pointed out that extreme weather will become more common as a result of global warming, leading to more frequent occurrence of natural disasters, like typhoons. Other than conducting a comprehensive review of their work and coordination with other departments, and further enhancing their capability and efficiency in coping with natural disasters, the government should actively review and enhance the capacity of public utilities to withstand natural disasters.
* The Secretary for Development, Mr Michael Wong, accompanied by the Chairman of the Sai Kung District Council, Mr George Ng, and the District Officer (Sai Kung), Mr David Chiu, visited the sewage works yesterday. Mr Wong was briefed on the progress of the feasibility study on relocation of the Sai Kung Sewage Treatment Works (STW) to caverns, as well as the preliminary comprehensive development study for the future planning of the STW’s existing site and its vicinity. SKB