LCQ16: Procurement and use of chemical materials in government works

Following is a question by the Hon Pan Pey-chyou and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 30):


It was reported earlier that the paint used by the Water Supplies Department for the dam maintenance works in Tai Po Kau contained an environmentally hazardous substance, epoxide resin, and some environmental groups were concerned about that.  Regarding the procurement and use of chemical materials in government works, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether at present, the composition of the materials used by government works contractors is subject to regulation by the Government, and whether the use of materials containing environmentally hazardous chemicals is prohibited; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether it has required various government departments to keep a record of the environmentally friendly products they procure in order to facilitate monitoring;

(b) how the authorities ensure that the materials used in government works will not damage the environment and adversely affect the quality of potable water;

(c) whether the authorities have made it mandatory for government departments to adopt, in the procurement of works materials, the relevant green procurement measures (as set out in the Guidelines for Drawing up Tender Specifications at Appendix III (F) of the Tender Procedures for Government Procurement in Chapter III of the Stores and Procurement Regulations); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the authorities have considered incorporating the relevant guidelines into their formal procurement standards and requirements;

(d) given that in 2007 the Government formulated the Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the Implementation Plan) with a view to reducing or eliminating persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and started to formulate its green procurement policy and chemicals procurement procedure on the basis of the Implementation Plan, of the latest implementation progress of various action items under the Implementation Plan; and

(e) given that nine POPs, including chlordecone, were newly listed under the Stockholm Convention in 2009, whether the authorities have planned to incorporate these nine POPs into the Implementation Plan and correspondingly amend the Government's green procurement policy and chemicals procurement procedure; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; whether the Government has commenced its environmental monitoring work in respect of these nine POPs; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



The "dam" mentioned in the question is a water intake facility for collecting rainwater at Tai Po Kau.  The works undertaken by Water Supplies Department (WSD) for this facility included the application of a protective coating on its concrete structure.  The protective coating is a mixture of two ingredients.  The ingredient includes a pre-polymer containing epoxy resin.  When properly applied, these two ingredients and their mixed product are non-toxic.  In fact, the protective coating conforms to the standards set for approving materials used in waterworks by the Britain's Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and has been verified to be safe for use on facilities in contact with potable water through test.  Therefore, the coating material will not cause any adverse impact on the environment.

The whole process of applying the coating material is supervised by the WSD, including the proper transport and storage, and proper mixing of the ingredients by contractors.  WSD also carries out monitoring on site including checking around the site to ensure that the materials concerned are not left behind.  WSD also takes water samples from nearby streams for testing and conducts site inspections to ensure that the environment has not been affected.

My reply to the five parts of the question is as follows:

(a) To avoid any impact to the environment, contractors are required to comply with all the legislation in force in Hong Kong and, in particular, the ordinances related to environmental protection and pollution control.  The specifications for government works also prohibit contractors from using toxic materials.  For instance, Section 22 of the General Specifications for Civil Engineering Works stipulates that materials used in pipes and fittings that are in contact with potable water in waterworks must be non-toxic.

Furthermore, Chapter VI of the Stores and Procurement Regulations requires departments to keep records of the materials (including environmentally friendly products) they have procured to facilitate monitoring.

(b) To protect the environment, the Administration requires government departments to carefully assess the impact and risks on the use of any proposed materials to the environment before giving approval for their use in works.  In particular, for materials that would be in contact with potable water, the approving departments must ensure that the materials conform to the relevant standards to safeguard the quality of potable water.  For example, regarding the protective coating for the water retaining facilities, including the concrete structures of water intake facilities, the government departments must ensure that the coating material conforms to the DWI standards for materials used in waterworks and is test-proven by the relevant testing authorities for safe use in facilities in contact with potable water before the contractor is allowed to use the material.

(c) When stipulating specifications and requirements for works of the government, the Administration requires departments to adopt the relevant green procurement measures as set out in the Guidelines for Drawing up Tender Specifications at Appendix III (F) of the Tender Procedures in Chapter III of the Stores and Procurement Regulations.  In meeting the principle of economical benefit, the use of single-use disposal items should be avoided and the purchase of more environmental friendly products should be considered.  Contractors are required to comply with the relevant requirements when procuring materials.

(d) The Stockholm Convention became effective to China, including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), on November 11, 2004.  The Convention aims, through strengthening global control efforts, to prohibit/restrict the production, use and release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) so as to protect human health and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of these hazardous chemicals.  The POPs chemicals regulated under the Convention are being phased out and their manufacture, use and sale are prohibited in the local market.  As such, Government departments will not procure materials or chemicals containing these POPs.

In 2006, the Administration formulated the HKSAR Implementation Plan (HKSARIP) to carry out the follow up actions. These include the implementation of the Hazardous Chemicals Control Ordinance (Cap.595) in 2008 to regulate the import, export, manufacture and use of hazardous chemicals, including POPs under the Stockholm Convention; enhancement of the local emissions inventory and environmental monitoring of POPs; implementation of local abatement measures to minimise the release of POPs; and promotion of public awareness on POPs through organising publicity and promotional activities.

(e) In view of the addition of nine new POPs (including Chlordecone) at the Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP-4) in 2009, the Contracting Parties, as required under the Convention, will update and revise their respective national implementation plans accordingly.  At present, many Parties, including China, are in the process of preparing for the acceptance of the Amendments to the Convention in connection with the inclusion of nine new POPs.  Upon completion of the procedures for acceptance of the Amendments by the Central People's Government, the Administration will introduce amendments to the relevant Ordinances to bring the newly listed POPs and their use under control in Hong Kong.  In addition, the Administration is taking steps to incorporate the new POPs into the HKSAR Implementation Plan.  For example, EPD is expanding the routine monitoring programmes progressively to cover the new POPs.  Starting in 2010, six new POPs have already been included in the toxic substances monitoring programme for the marine environment.

Ends/Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 18:07