Massive amounts of construction waste are being dumped regularly into the sea, but concerned government agencies are apparently unaware of these flagrant violations of Hong Kong’s pollution laws.
Ming Pao Daily reported on Tuesday that its own investigations in the past two months found that construction waste from the Central-Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor Link project has been illegally dumped into the Victoria Harbour, apparently without the knowledge of the Highways Department and the Environmental Protection Department.
The project, which started in 2010 and is expected to be completed in late 2017, forms part of an east-west strategic route along the north shore of Hong Kong Island.
It aims to alleviate the traffic congestion along the existing Gloucester Road-Harcourt Road- Connaught Road Central corridor, the Highways Department said on its website.
Ming Pao launched an investigation after receiving complaints that slurry was seen floating on the sea surface near the construction site at the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter.
A sample test revealed that the slurry contained bentonite, which is a common building material.
The waste matter, according to government regulations, must be shipped to a designated dump.
An expert said bentonite, although not poisonous, tends to reduce oxygen concentration in the sea, thereby indirectly contributing to the depletion of fish and other marine life.
Bentonite could also sicken people who swim in waters where it is dumped.
China State Construction Engineering (Hong Kong) Ltd., the main contractor of the project, said it has been properly disposing of its waste material.
Yet a source who is involved in the project said dumping of construction waste has been going on for more than six months and the accumulated amount is estimated to have reached as much as 20,000 cubic meters.
According to the source, subcontractors in charge of the disposal of waste material seemed to always know in advance when government officials were coming for on-site inspections and therefore would ask workers to refrain from illegal work procedures until they were gone.
The Environmental Protection Department has conducted at least 87 inspections at the project site and found nothing irregular.
The Highways Department, which is in charge of the project, said monitoring of contractors is commissioned to a consulting firm named AECOM Asia Co. Ltd., which also has not reported any irregularities.
Lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-Yan said illegal dumping of pollutants into sea is a serious offense, and relevant government agencies and contractors should be held accountable for violations.
Based on the Water Pollution Control Ordinance, anyone found dumping pollutants into a restricted area could face a fine of HK$200,000 and a jail term of up to six months.
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