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SCMP: Incinerator will create toxic ash with poisonous emissions

Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:16am

Comment› Letters

In his letter to supposedly correct “misunderstandings” by opponents of the planned Shek Kwu Chau incinerator (“Incinerator will adopt proven, cost-effective technology on island [1]”, August 5), Elvis W. K, Au, assistant director of environmental protection, added yet more disinformation on the project.

Au boasted that the facility will adopt proven technology, yet omitted to mention that this technology creates toxic ash along with poisonous emissions, with adverse health impacts described in peer-reviewed research.

Were the incinerator emissions clean, it could be sited beside the government’s Tamar offices, so officials like Au could admire it each day. Yet instead, it is to be beside a relatively remote island.

It seems laughable to claim this choice of location arises through trying to “achieve a more balanced distribution of waste facilities”. But then, Au and colleagues have made a host of absurd claims regarding the project.

For instance, the incinerator with its 150-metre chimney can somehow blend with the surroundings – in an area of outstanding natural beauty; the reclamation and operations will not adversely affect the globally endangered finless porpoise; and, the incinerator will even benefit local tourism.

To those of us living on Cheung Chau, this last claim is a joke. More serious is Au’s previous habit of wrongly claiming the incinerator can completely destroy organic pollutants, which reflects an inadequate understanding of the basic chemistry and health risks, and is disturbing coming from an official supposedly helping safeguard our environment.

Au even played fast and loose with financial information in striving to show the incinerator will be “cost effective”. In his letter, he cited a capital cost of about HK$12.7 billion, which may be the first time this figure has been published, as in March 2012 the anticipated cost was HK$14.96 billion.

Conveniently, too, Au omitted to mention that because the incinerator and its island will take perhaps eight years or more to build, landfills must be extended, at an additional cost of HK$12 billion – making the real incinerator project bill nearer to a hefty HK$27 billion, which will rise when costs soar, as they are wont to do for infrastructure schemes.

In rejecting plasma arc facilities as being small scale with limited performance tracks, Au further demonstrated his blinkered approach, ignoring the large-scale facilities being commissioned and built in the UK, and planned for several countries including China.

Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors

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