For discussion
on 18 December 1998


Subhead 700 General other non-recurrent
New item "Study on toxic substances pollution"

    Members are invited to approve a new commitment of $16.8 million for commissioning a consultancy study to address the problem of toxic substances pollution in the marine environment of Hong Kong.


Toxic substances in the local marine environment may pose serious environmental and health problems. We need to obtain more information on their sources and effects to formulate an effective pollution control strategy.


2. We propose to engage consultants to undertake a comprehensive study to identify the trade, usage and production of toxic substances and their discharge to local marine waters, and to make recommendations for the formulation of an effective toxic pollutants control strategy.


3. Toxic pollutants generated from many diverse sources are released into local marine waters every day. These include not only discharges from factories and sewage, but also those from diffuse sources such as surface water run-off from farmlands, golf courses and roads. The toxic substances produced in specific manufacturing processes are largely under control. However, pollutants from diffuse sources still find their ways into the environment and may pose potentially serious environmental problems. The accumulation of heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorine pesticides in oysters, mussels and fish can be a significant health hazard and may threaten the local dolphin community.

4. There is increasing public demand to deal with environmental pollution by trace toxicants. In the past few years, both the Advisory Committee on Environment and the Legislative Council Panel on Environmental Affairs have identified toxic chemicals as an issue of environmental concern and requested the Government to put up a comprehensive plan for controlling their entry into the environment. The Green Groups frequently raise the issue.

5. In order to devise an effective toxic pollutant control strategy, we need to identify the sources and fates of toxic pollutants in our marine environment and assess the potential threat any such substances may pose to aquatic life and human health. There is insufficient local information at present.

6. We propose to commission a consultancy study, the scope of which will include -

  1. a territory-wide survey to identify the trade, usage, production, and disposal or discharge of toxic substances. This includes industrial, commercial and domestic applications, agricultural pesticides and toxic organic substances from other diffuse sources;

  2. field sampling and laboratory testing to assess the levels of toxic pollutants in the environment, including the water and the local marine biota1, and to trace pathways which link sources to environmental levels;

  3. evaluation of the potential ecological and human health risks from these pollutants and establishment of safe levels of exposure; and

  4. making recommendations for the formulation and implementation of an effective toxic pollutants control programme to minimize the adverse impacts of toxic pollutants on human health and the environment.

The Director of Environmental Protection (DEP) has critically reviewed the resource position of his Department and concluded that the study cannot be conducted in-house without upsetting the delivery of its other initiatives.

7. The proposal will enable us to take proactive steps to safeguard the health and welfare of the local community from any potential adverse environmental or health effects associated with toxic pollutants. It will enhance protection for local marine organisms, in particular dolphins and porpoises that frequent our coastal waters.

8. The proposed timetable for carrying out the study is as follows -

Commence the selection and tendering process for the consultancy study April 1999
Award of tender September 1999
Commencement of study October 1999
Completion of Final Report January 2002


9. DEP estimates the capital cost of the study to be $16.8 million in money-of-the-day (MOD) prices, made up as follows -

$ million
(a) Consultants' fees for -
  1. planning and supervision of survey; data analysis and interpretation
  1. risk assessment
  1. formulation of an effective toxic pollutants control strategy
(b)Out-of-pocket expenses
  1. field survey and sampling
  1. laboratory testing
(c) Contingency 0.77
(d) Inflation allowance2

10. A detailed breakdown of the estimated study fees under paragraph 9(a) above is at the Enclosure. We will commission the study on a lump-sum fixed-fee basis. We will tender the sample collection and laboratory testing components of the study under paragraph 9(b)(i) and (ii) above on the basis of re-measurement contracts because the scope and value of these activities cannot be exactly quantified at this stage.

11. As regards paragraph 9(a), the estimated cost covers the consultants' fees for planning and supervision of territory-wide surveys to identify the trade, usage, production and discharge of toxic substances; data collection, analysis and interpretation; performing ecological and human health risk assessment; establishing safe levels of exposure; developing a risk management framework; and formulating toxic pollutants control strategy.

12. As regards paragraph 9(b)(i), the estimated cost is for preparation of field surveys and collection of samples from effluent discharges, ambient water, sediment and biota. We expect to collect 1 000 samples.

13. As regards paragraph 9(b)(ii), the estimated cost is for laboratory analysis for inorganic chemicals and trace organics, and for conducting toxicological testing. We expect to perform 5 000 to 6 000 chemical analyses and 100 to 120 toxicological tests on five local marine species including fish and shellfish.

14. The estimated cashflow is as follows -

$ million
1999-2000 4.10
2000-01 7.35
2001-02 5.35
Total 16.80

15.The proposal will entail a recurrent expenditure of $100,000 per year for updating the toxic substances inventory database arising from the study. This will be absorbed by the Environmental Protection Department. There are no other additional recurrent financial implications. The Environmental Protection Department will also oversee the study using its existing staff resources.


16. The proposal was one of the commitments made in the 1998 Environment Policy Booklet issued by the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau in connection with the 1998 Policy Address. The study will help us to formulate a strategy to control toxic substances that pollute our marine environment. In order to devise an effective control strategy, we need to identify the sources and fates of toxic pollutants in our marine environment and assess the potential threat any such substances may pose to aquatic life and human health. There is insufficient local information at present. We have committed to complete the study in 2002.


Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau
December 1998

Enclosure to FCR(98-99)57

Toxic Substances Control Strategy Study

Detailed Breakdown of the Estimates of the Study Costs

Consultant's staff cost
Estimated man months Average MPS* salary point Multiplier factor Estimatedfee
(a) Planning and supervision of surveys to identify the trade, usage, production and discharge of toxic substances Professional
(b) Data collection, analysis and interpretation Professional
(c) Risk assessment Professional 12 40 3 2.26
(d) Formulation of an effective toxic pollutants control strategy Professional 16 40 3 3.01
Total staff cost 8.73
Out-of-pocket expenses
1. Field survey and sampling 2.00
2. Laboratory testing
  1. Inorganic chemical analysis
  1. Trace organics analysis
  1. Toxicological testing
Total out-of-pocket expenses 6.50
Miscellaneous expenses and contingencies 0.77
Total study cost 16.00

* MPS = Master Pay Scale /Notes .....

Notes -

  1. A multiplier factor of 3 is applied to the average Master Pay Scale (MPS) point to arrive at the full staff cost including the consultant's overheads and profit, as the staff will be employed in the consultant's offices. (At present, MPS Point 40 is $62,780 per month and MPS Point 16 is $21,010 per month.)

  2. Out-of-pocket expenses are the actual costs incurred. The consultant is not entitled to any additional payment for overheads or profit.

  3. These are only estimates. The actual man months and actual fees required will be known when we have selected the consultant through the usual competitive lump sum fee bidding system.

1.Flora and fauna of the region.

2.Inflation allowance based on Composite Consumer Price Index of 2.5% as at September 1998.