PLC Paper No. CB(2) 282
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and
cleared with the Chairman)
Ref : CB2/PL/HS, CB2/PL/EA
- Tsing Yi Residents Association
- Mr LAW King-shing
- Ms AU YEUNG Po-chun
- General Director
Clerk in Attendance:
- Mrs Mary TANG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 4 (Atg)
Staff in Attendance:
- Mr Stanley MA
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 9
I. Election of Chairman
Miss Christine LOH was elected Chairman for the joint Panel meeting.
II. Discussion on the Centralized Incineration Facility
(Paper No. CB(2)2474/96-97(01) and (02))
2. At the request of the Chairman, Principal Assistant Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands (Environment) (PAS/PEL(E)) briefed members on the salient points of the Administrations information paper on the Centralized Incineration Facility (CIF) -
- since the implementation of a code of practice on the management of clinical waste by the Hospital Authority (HA) in 1993, the volume of clinical waste had decreased significantly. According to the results of the survey conducted in late 1995, the volume of daily clinical waste in 2012 would be 14.5 tonnes instead of 23 tonnes as estimated in 1993;
- the Administration, having examined the feasibility of a number of options and having regard to members concerns expressed at the meeting of the Public Works Subcommittee on 17 May 1995, proposed using a combination of three options to dispose of the territorys clinical waste, animal carcasses and security waste. This included, namely, the utilization of the existing Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC) at Tsing Yi island for clinical and security waste, the construction of a stand-alone animal cremator for animal carcasses and the use of landfills for security waste;
- a trial burn of clinical waste at CWTC was conducted in November 1996 and the results indicated that it was technically feasible to incinerate clinical waste at CWTC;
- legislative control on the disposal of clinical waste would be introduced by Regulations made under the Waste Disposal Ordinance (Cap. 345). Public and private hospitals and government clinics would be subject to the regulatory control in the first phase and other producers of clinical waste would follow in the second phase;
- collectors of clinical waste should obtain an appropriate licence which would be granted to all applicants who met prescribed standards of requirement. Producers should use the service of licensed collectors for the collection and transport of waste from their premises to the approved disposal facilities;
- a code of practice would be drafted to provide guidance to all clinical waste producers and licensed collectors to ensure that the entire disposal operation would not pose any health hazards to the workers and the public;
- although the cost of utilizing the facilities of CWTC had yet to be worked out, it was estimated that the total capital cost of the recommended option would be lower than that of a CIF; and
- subject to members endorsement on the proposal at paragraph 2(b), the Administration would proceed to consult the relevant parties including HA, the District Boards, the Municipal Councils and the medical profession etc.
3. Referring to paragraph 5 of the Administrations paper, the Chairman enquired on the pros and cons of the recommended option in comparison to that of the CIF proposal. She asked whether there were potential benefits which only the CIF proposal could provide. PAS/PEL(E) replied that the proposed CIF would be a favourable long-term solution for the disposal of clinical and security waste and animal carcasses from the perspective of environmental protection. It would be more cost effective to coordinate and manage the disposal of clinical waste within the proposed CIF. Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Special Waste Facilities Group) of the Environmental Protection Department (PEPO/EPD) supplemented that the proposed CIF would require a relatively larger piece of land.
4. As an active environmentalist, Dr LEONG Che-hung stated that the Administration should include all categories of waste in their study of a long-term solution for waste disposal in Hong Kong. As CWTC was originally designed to treat chemical waste, he was concerned whether it could in practice accommodate the additional 14.5 tons of clinical waste per day. PEPO/EPD replied that CWTC was designed with an incineration capacity of 65 tonnes per day. With the present utilization rate and the completion of the proposed modifications, it should have spare capacity to handle up to 14.5 tonnes of clinical waste per day in 2012.
5. In response to Dr LEONGs enquiry on the technical performance of CWTC in its combustion of clinical waste, PEPO/EPD replied that the results of the trial burn in November 1996 indicated that it was technically feasible to incinerate clinical waste at CWTC (the temperature inside the incinerator was around 1200 degree Celsius) except for waste which contained mercury. To overcome the problem, apart from segregating mercury from the waste stream, the carbon injection technique would be utilized in the flue gas scrubbing process to reduce any mercury remaining in the stack gas. In response to Dr LEONGs further enquiry, PEPO/EPD pointed out that the incinerator at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital was designed to handle the clinical waste generated from the operation of the hospital. Its design capacity and the associated supporting facilities could not accommodate clinical waste generated from other sources.
6. In response to members enquiries, PEPO/EPD replied that the previous estimate of 23 tonnes of clinical waste per day was made in 1993 and had not taken into account the effects of a new waste segregation practice which was introduced at HAs hospitals and clinics in accordance with the code of practice on the management of clinical waste introduced in the same year. EPD had worked out the revised estimate of 14.5 tonnes of clinical waste per day jointly with HA and the Department of Health in late 1995. He pointed out that factors contributing to the production of clinical waste were changing with time and the Administration would keep in view the future trend of clinical waste closely. Responding to the query that the Administration had overlooked CWTC as an option when they proposed the construction of a CIF at a site in Tuen Mun, he explained that the capacity of CWTC was fully utilized when it was brought into operation in 1993. However, the volume of chemical waste had decreased in recent years to such an extent that CWTC could, after some permanent modifications, now be able to handle clinical waste at least up to the year of 2008. In response to the Chairmans enquiry on the cost-effectiveness of the different options which the Administration had considered, he replied that the proposed option was the most cost-effective one.
7. Responding to Mr IP Kwok-him, PEPO/EPD said that the current utilization rate of CWTC was around 65 percent and the incineration of 14.5 tonnes of clinical waste per day would take up about 25% of its design capacity of 65 tonnes. EPD had employed Hong Kong Productivity Council and an external consultant to study the future trend of chemical waste arisings and according to their findings, the volume of chemical waste would continue to decrease in the next few years. As the transport of 14.5 clinical waste would require a daily flow of about 30 purpose-built vehicles in and out of CWTC, the prevailing traffic conditions within Tsing Yi district should not be adversely affected. He added that EPD would shortly conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study to assess the environmental, health and traffic impact on the residents of the Tsing Yi district as a result of the operation of combined incineration of chemical and clinical waste at CWTC.
8. Mr HO Mun-ka was concerned about the effects of the combined incineration on the health of the community. PEPO/EPD explained that as long as the temperature inside the combustion chamber of the incinerator at CWTC was above 1000 degree Celsius and the emissions were properly controlled, both wastes could be incinerated simultaneously without posing any health hazards to the public and the workers involved in handling the waste. He added that the two categories of waste should be handled separately before they were incinerated together and the CWTC operator would establish special facilities and procedures for receiving, storing and treating chemical and clinical waste. As regards whether incineration of chemical and clinical waste should be separated or combined, PEPO/EPD said that the Administration had yet to decide on the arrangement. It would depend on the results of the EIA study which would be conducted shortly.
9. Members in general agreed that EPD had not provided sufficient information to the Panel for in-depth discussion of the proposed option. In this connection, the Chairman requested and the Administration agreed to provide a supplementary information paper incorporating the following information for members consideration -
- the pros and cons of the present proposal as against previous proposals;
- an analysis of the possible options of clinical waste disposal and their impact on health and the environment; and
- the plans to retrofit the existing incinerators.
(Post-meeting Note : The Administrations paper entitled "Supplementary information paper on the centralized incineration facility" was circulated to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2)2776/96-97 dated 25 June 1997.)
10. In response to Dr LEONGs enquiry on the control of clinical waste, PEPO/EPD replied that clinical waste was potentially infectious and bio-hazardous and needed to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. He pointed out that the proposed licence system could ensure the service standards of private contractors engaging in the collection and transport of clinical waste. On the issue of using the service of licensed private collectors for the transport of clinical waste to the approved disposal facilities, PAS/PEL(E) explained that the Administrations intention was to create market competition for the service to ensure the most cost-effective means of collection and transport of clinical waste. As regards the cost incurred for the disposal of clinical waste, members in general agreed that waste producers should pay for the disposal of waste.
11. Regarding the design capacities of the existing pathological waste incinerators at HAs hospitals, Deputy Director (Operations) of HA said the incinerator at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital could handle around 5 tonnes of clinical waste per day. He also assured members that HA would continue to review its available resources in respect of the forecast population growth and distribution and make appropriate bids to the Administration for additional resources to cope with the increasing demand for healthcare services.
12. At the Chairmans invitation, representatives of Tsing Yi Residents Association made the following comments-
- the disposal of clinical waste at CWTC was proposed to finance the operation of CWTC at the expense of an adverse impact on the environment and the health of residents of the Tsing Yi district;
- CWTC was originally designed to incinerate chemical waste and it was doubtful whether it could accommodate the incineration of clinical waste;
- the daily transport of clinical waste from all public and private hospitals and clinics to CWTC would cause inherent health risks and nuisance to residents of the Tsing Yi district;
- the capital cost of the proposed option might not be less than that of the proposed CIF;
- the revised estimated of 14.5 tonnes of clinical waste per day in 2012 might not be accurate in view of the increasing population and demand for better and improved medical services; and
- the construction of a CIF at a location far from residential area might be a more practical long-term solution for disposal of clinical waste.
13. The meeting ended at 12:30 pm.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
10 September 1997
Last Updated on 19 August 1998