Probe pledge into poisoned water

英文虎報  2004-10-05
Dennis Ng

The Water Supplies Department on Monday insisted that Hong Kong's fresh water supply is safe but has agreed to investigate allegations that toxic waste is poisoning the East River catchment area that supplies Hong Kong.

The alarm was raised by Greenpeace at the weekend after it measured what it said were cadmium concentrations thousands of times higher than internationally accepted safety levels in drains around the catchment area.

Last year, Hong Kong spent HK$2.3 billion on 760.85 million cubic metres of water from the mainland.

On Monday, a department spokesman said water supplied to Hong Kong met both SAR and mainland standards as well as guidelines laid down by the World Health Organisation.

The spokesman said water sampling at the Muk Wu Pumping Station in Man Kam To over the past six months consistently showed concentrations of cadmium less than 0.001 mg per litre, compared with the permitted level of 0.005 mg per litre.

Water sampling at East Bank Section of Dongjiang's Mainstream near Taiyuan Pumping Station by mainland authorities last year showed the amount of cadmium was only 0.0005 mg per litre, or only one-tenth of the permitted level.

Excessive exposure to cadmium can cause cancer and kidney damage as well as bone disease, anaemia and teeth discolouration. The extremely toxic heavy metal is commonly used in places such as electroplating and battery factories.

Greenpeace anti-toxic campaigner Kevin May said the Hong Kong authorities should obtain data on pollution along the river, instead of sampling data taken at pumping stations.

He said Hong Kong should work with Guangdong authorities to eliminate pollution sources along the river to ensure the supply of clean fresh water.

Greenpeace said it went to Huizhou, northeast of Hong Kong, in July after more than 100 workers at the Huizhou Advanced Battery factory came down with cadmium poisoning.

Greenpeace said laboratory examination of effluent samples collected in open drains near the factory contained 1,970 micrograms per litre of cadmium, or about 20 times higher than permitted levels.

Sediment samples collected in open drains contained 7.07 grams of cadmium per kilogram, against a recognised safety level of only 1mg/kg of cadmium.

Greenpeace again visited the industrial city last month and found many plants discharging effluent into open drains at night.

A spokesman for Hong Kong-invested Gold Peak Industries, which owns the Huizhou factory, said the production of nickel-cadmium batteries had halted in July and would not resume until an investigation was completed.

dennis.ng@globalchina.com
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