Toxic fears near HK water supply source

South China Morning Post(南華早報)
2004-10-05
CHEUNG CHI-FAI

    A mainland battery manufacturer will investigate an alleged leak of toxic waste after excessive concentrations of heavy metals were found near a Huizhou factory and close to the source of Hong Kong's water supplies.

  Greenpeace found the level of cadmium, a heavy metal used in the production of batteries, to be 19 times higher than the Hong Kong standard in samples taken from an open drain outside the factory in mid-July. It also discovered excess levels of cadmium, cobalt, nickel and zinc in sand and dust samples taken from the same spot.  

  In a marsh area near  the factory, the activists also found a warm, strong-smelling, dark-blue effluent seeping from a hidden drain. Water from there was found to contain excessive chromium and zinc. 

  Although the sources of the water and sediments could not be determined, the environmental group suspected they might be related to the Huizhou Advance Battery Technology factory, which is owned by a Hong Kong company.  

  Greenpeace said the contaminated waste water could find its way into the catchment area and tributaries of the Dongjiang, the river which supplies 80 per cent of Hong Kong's water. 

  The factory, owned by Gold Peak Industries, was hit by a strike in June after workers claimed some of them had been poisoned by cadmium, a cancer-causing substance. 

  A spokesman for Gold Peak said yesterday the factory had stopped producing nickel-cadmium batteries since July, pending an investigation.  The management is taking Greenpeace's findings seriously and has proactively communicated with related parties, including Greenpeace, to ascertain the facts and understand the methodology of the study, he said.  

  The spokesman did not comment on whether the contaminants came from the factory, but stressed that it complied with international environmental practices and national standards, and was inspected regularly by Huizhou's environmental watchdog. 

  A spokeswoman for the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau yesterday said it would seek information from the mainland on whether the  pollutants could affect water quality. 

  But she stressed that water Hong Kong bought from Guangdong was safe and tests carried out at the Muk Wu pumping station at the border indicated that levels of heavy metals were well below acceptable limits. 
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