Troubled water as pollution probe opens

Local | Maisy Mok 22 May 2020

The Ombudsman is opening an investigation into whether the government has properly handled problems relating to the misconnection of private building sewers to stormwater drains that is causing coastal pollution.

The environmental protection, buildings and drainage services departments will be the subjects of the investigation, Ombudsman Winnie Chiu Wai-yin said.

Chiu said they will examine the departments' performance at the location of the misconnection, as well as their pursuit of liability and implementation of remedial measures.

There have been 348 such cases over the past five years, of which four cases have not been rectified since 2014.

"Our preliminary inquiry has revealed a number of cases has been dragging on for years without resolution," Chiu said.

She said that the environmental protection department is responsible for initiating prosecutions against illegal sewage dischargers, as well as planning the installation of "dry weather flow interceptors" in various districts to improve coastal water quality.

The drainage services department oversees the construction and operation of the interceptors, as well as the detection of misconnection cases during routine inspections, while the buildings department is in charge of issuing statutory orders to property owners found violating the Buildings Ordinance and prosecuting those who do not comply.

"As long as the misconnected sewers go unrectified, a huge volume of effluents will continue to flow into the sea and cause pollution," Chiu said.

"This is highly unsatisfactory."

According to information from the environmental protection department, sewer discharge from misconnected sewers is one of the major causes of coastal pollution in Hong Kong.

The Ombudsman also announced an investigation into the maintenance and repair of playgrounds in public rental housing estates to identify any areas for improvement.

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