The Hong Kong government has held a joint departmental operation in which a number of recycling sites in North District in the New Territories were nine to have illegally collected and stored a large quantity of chemical waste.
The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) said that it is now investigating the people involved and gathering evidence in preparation for instituting prosecutions.
According to an EPD spokesman joint operation, entitled Operation Dawn, was conducted by the EPD, the Fire Services Department (FSD), the Hong Kong Police Force and the Planning Department (PlanD). The operation was intended to step up enforcement actions against irregularities at recycling sites.
The EPD said that along with the other departments it conducted “ambushes” at a number of open waste recycling sites in North District to check whether their operations comply with relevant legal requirements on pollution control, fire safety and land planning.
During Operation Dawn the EPD found that nine waste recycling sites in Hung Lung Hang, North District, were involved in illegal collection and storage of large quantities of chemical waste, and thus are suspected to have contravened the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation.
The chemical waste seized during the operation was said to mainly comprise LCDs, totalling around 3500 pieces (including around 1100 large LCDs measuring more than 60 inches each) with an estimated total market export value of over $2 million.
During the operation EPD said that its officers also collected water and soil samples at nearby areas to check whether the operations of the recycling sites have affected the surrounding environment, while the FSD reminded the recycling facility operators and their staff about fire safety requirements.
The PlanD is also investigating whether any recycling sites have contravened the regulation on land-use planning.
"Any person who collects, stores, disposes of, imports or exports chemical waste must apply for a permit from the EPD. However, the nine recycling sites concerned have not obtained the required approval," said the EPD spokesman.
The department added that general use and normal selling of LCD monitors does not constitute a danger. However, if a recycling site is involved in the collection, storage, dismantling, disposal or import and export of a large quantity of waste LCD monitors, which contain heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium, as well as toxic organic compounds in a form, the large quantities could cause pollution or constitute a danger to health.
As such it is an activity which is regulated under the Waste Disposal Ordinance and the Waste Disposal (Chemical Waste) (General) Regulation. As waste lead-acid batteries contain sulphuric acid and lead, they are classified as chemical waste.
“All chemical waste must be properly handled to avoid causing pollution to the environment or affecting public health,” stressed the spokesman. "The EPD and relevant departments will continuously conduct joint enforcement operations against illegal activities at waste recycling sites."
The EPD said that it was reminding waste recycling site operators and those who are engaged in the collection, import and export of recyclables to strictly comply with the legal requirements in handling chemical waste.
It added that chemical waste must be collected by licensed chemical waste collectors for delivery to the EPD's licensed chemical waste treatment facilities for disposal.
Any persons who wish to import or export chemical waste require a permit issued by the EPD. It is an offence for anyone to collect, store, dispose of, import or export chemical waste not according to the legal requirements.
The department also warned that first-time offenders are liable to a maximum fine of $200,000 and six months' imprisonment.
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