Reply To: Incinerator-promoting Hong Kong EPD unfazed by poor data


Elvis Au of EPD responded to above letter, but only selectively. I sent this, published on 27 February 2014:

Research claims link between cancer and incinerator emissions

While it is good that Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, took the time to answer my letter ("Au must come clean on new incinerator", January 30), his response ("Incinerator would meet EU standards", February 21) was more political than environmentally sound. Notably, he avoided answering my allegation that his claims incinerator technology would "completely destroy organic pollutants" are untrue.

He again cites European Union standards, as if these ensure emissions will be clean. Yet when I previously asked him why the incinerator could not be sited by the government offices in Central, he said this would lead to pollution over the harbour exceeding air quality objectives. If the emissions will be so pure, why will there be a 150-metre-high chimney?

As Mr Au suggested, I tried looking online to find real-time information on incinerator emissions. I could not find it, but stumbled across research published last year, linking proximity to Taiwan's incinerators to increased risk of children showing delayed development in the gross motor domain. This adds to recent research suggesting incinerator emissions cause health problems including cancer and premature births.

While Mr Au latches on to any problems with potential alternatives to incineration, he blithely ignores this research, which should be cause for concern in a department overseeing environmental protection.

I also checked the Guidebook for the Application of Waste to Energy Technologies cited by Mr Au, and found it is authored by engineers, and funded by a development bank aiming to support incineration, including a project in Haiti that's controversial partly as, like in Hong Kong, it will treat waste so moist that it cannot be burnt unassisted.

But how about the views of medical experts? The British Society of Ecological Medicine assessed risks, and concluded, "a policy of building more incinerators and cement kilns will mean that many more lives will be lost unnecessarily from cancer, including those of children, more people will die prematurely from heart disease, there will be an increase in birth defects and health costs will increase".

Given such concerns, we should consider far cleaner plasma arc technology today, not some time in the future. Indeed, Zhuhai plans to build a substantial plasma arc waste treatment facility.

The Environmental Protection Department is organising a trip to study waste treatment in Europe next month; it would be negligent not to visit the new plasma facility in Teesside, England.

Dr Martin Williams, Cheung Chau