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[Distinguished Public Officers] Carrie, Chief Environmental Protection Inspector of Environmental Protection Department

Winner of The Ombudsman’s Awards 2020 for Officers of Public OrganisationsWong Ka Lai, Carrie, Chief Environmental Protection Inspector (Regional South) of Environmental Protection Department“Take action promptly with perseverance and determination.” (The video is in Cantonese) "On an afternoon in 2018, a large amount of milky water was discharged into the Shau Kei Wan Typhoon Shelter. Shortly afterwards, numerous complaints and enquiries reached me and my team. I immediately deployed staff to collect water samples and led other team members to trace the source of contamination. At the site, we saw that a whole stretch of the Typhoon Shelter had turned white, but the discharge had already stopped by that time, making it more difficult to trace the source. Losing no time in gathering evidence, we finally identified a construction site on the flat roof of a housing estate as the possible source." "Despite the challenges in the investigation, my team and I worked with determination and didn’t give up. In the following week, we visited the site every day to gather evidence, and reconstructed the sequence of events despite the absence of witnesses. Eventually, we not only successfully prosecuted the main contractor and subcontractor concerned but also monitored their extraction of residual milky water from the stormwater drains to prevent further pollution of the Typhoon Shelter." For more details of The Ombudsman’s Awards 2020, please visit the website of the Office of The Ombudsman.  

Drones aid environmental protection (Environmental Protection Department)

(The photo is provided by Information Services Department) The Environmental Protection Department’s drone team has been instrumental in the department’s success in protecting our habitat. Established at the end of last year, the drone team mainly assists the department in dealing with two aspects of its environmental protection work, including combatting illegal landfilling works and investigating ecological disturbances. It has contributed significantly to the department’s success in its enforcement actions. People involved in two illegal landfilling cases detected by the team have been convicted. Facilitating enforcementEnvironmental Protection Officer Thomas Wong pointed out that it was challenging to combat these illegal landfilling works in the past because the department had to visit the sites physically. Mr Wong said: “When our enforcement officers approached areas where these activities took place, they were easily spotted, and the people stopped their illicit actions right away. Now we can record these activities clearly from a distance with a drone.” Senior Environmental Protection Inspector Viane Lee is the only female operator in the drone team and she has rich flying experience. When flying the drone, Miss Lee said she is always on the lookout for bulldozers pushing earth or trucks dumping construction waste. “We use the drone to record these activities as evidence. Our colleagues then go to the place concerned to collect information on the suspected offenders.” (The photo is provided by Information Services Department) Time-saving toolsThe department can also quickly mobilise the drone team to investigate ecological disturbances, for example, when a lot of dead fish are found in the water. “People are very concerned when they discover dead fish in the environment. If that happens, our drone takes off immediately to search for the pollution source along the river and inspect the extent of the pollution,” Miss Lee said. “At the same time, we provide information obtained from the drone to support the work of a field team, which collects water samples and evidence at relevant locations.” Mr Wong added that drone usage greatly reduces the manpower and time needed to find sources of pollution in the environment. “Take a 5km-long river as an example. In the past, we needed three to five colleagues to complete an investigation into the source of the pollution, which would take three to five days. Now, with drones, only one person is required to finish the same job in around an hour.” When emergencies such as chemical leaks cause water pollution, the drone team will conduct operations as well. It will send real-time images of the incident to the department’s control centre. Safety firstBefore every operation, the team ensures that the drone is safe to fly. They follow the Civil Aviation Department’s guidelines. Pre-operation preparations include finding a suitable take-off and landing site, planning the flight path, checking the weather forecast, especially the wind conditions, and making sure the drone functions well.After arriving at the location of operation, they cordon off the take-off and landing area. Right before the drone is ready for take-off, they recheck it to ensure it will not malfunction. Miss Lee said: “Safety is always the priority. Good teamwork is the key to a successful operation.” The department hopes to use drones for more aspects of their work, including monitoring the operations of landfills and tackling onshore marine refuse, to further protect the environment.

New Approach to Mitigate Traffic Noise at Public Housing Development Projects (Housing Department, Environmental Protection Department, Buildings Department)

"Hong Kong is a metropolitan with many people and vehicles. Traffic noise is unavoidable. Therefore, we began to think if we could make use of innovative technology to resolve the problem." Senior Project Officer, Environmental Protection Department, Yeung Kwok-leung, Maurice said."We improved the double-glazed window that was used in Hong Kong to come up with the design of this “Acoustic Window”. We made one of the “Acoustic Windows”, and conducted tests at laboratory for technical information. We also conducted researches and studies with colleagues from the Housing Department, and invited colleagues from the Buildings Department to participate in the designing of the window. Three departments collaborated in this project. Maurice said, "At least 20 developments of the Housing Departments will adopt the acoustic windows. Of course, some of the developments have been completed and are currently occupied. What made us happy was when residents said, "We don’t have to close the windows at all. It is very cool indoors and noise has been reduced. Thank you very much!” This compliment was so heart-warming." Hong Kong is a densely populated place. Busy city activities inevitably create noise, causing nuisance to the public, and traffic noise is often a major issue. In view of this, the Housing Department in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Department and Buildings Department has designed the acoustic windows and acoustic balconies installation in the public housing estates.In Shun Lai House of the Yau Lai Estate, some units are facing the portal of the Eastern Harbour Crossing with heavy traffic, and in the nearby area, there are also quarries and construction sites. The Housing Department installed acoustic windows in these units to reduce noise nuisance caused to the residents. Resident Mr. Law said, "I’ve left the acoustic windows open at night and I could hear the noisy traffic. It becomes very quiet when I closed the acoustic windows. I can sleep until dawn. I keep the acoustic windows open in the day time for good ventilation and to keep the place cool. It is environment-friendly as I don’t need to turn on the air conditioning often!" Mr Law, the resident, highly appreciates the design of the acoustic windows which reduces the traffic noise, and it is easy to take care of them. Mr Fung, who also lives in Shun Lai House, thinks that the design of the acoustic windows caters well for the needs of the residents. Another resident Mr. Fung said, "It provides an additional layer of glazing. When I hang my clothes outside, I just slide open the acoustic window. The windows on both sides can be pushed open like this."The design of the acoustic window looks simple, but it has come a long way from design, development through to implementation. It was a collaboration project of the Housing Department, Environmental Protection Department and Buildings Department. With the use of innovative technology, and based on the concept of “people-orientation” and “sustainable development”, we successfully implemented the acoustic window.Architect, Housing Department, Ngai Pui-yan, Jo said, "The Housing Department strives to optimise the use of our scarce land resources. In every project, we make sure that the land usage will deliver the best possible benefits. We aim to provide a good quality living environment for the residents based on the “people-oriented” design concept, and alleviating the impact of traffic noise in building design is one of our key goals. For years, building design in Hong Kong has evolved to deal with the traffic noise impact. In 2009, the Housing Department, Environmental Protection Department and Buildings Department collaborated to develop various measures on mitigating the traffic noise impact.Yeung Kwok-leung, Maurice said, "We came up with this simple design of a quasi double-glazed window, which has an alley between the two layers of glasses. Then we made use of the principle of sound absorption, diffraction and reflection to achieve the noise reduction effect. Based on this concept, we carried out simulations in the laboratory and obtained positive results. We then shared our findings with colleagues of the Housing Department. They agreed that it could be put to practical application."Building Surveyor, Buildings Department, Cheng Kam-ming, Anson added, "Traditionally, noise reduction and natural ventilation belong to two different and contradictory categories. Usually noise reduction is achieved at the expense of natural ventilation, and vice versa, good natural ventilation may compromise the noise reduction effect. We hope to devise a standard compliant acoustic window design, which meets the statutory requirements for natural ventilation, achieving noise reduction effect, and has wider applications as well."As soon as it was confirmed that the acoustic windows could be adopted to mitigate the traffic noise impact, the three departments worked together in the areas of design, exploring the choice of materials, ascertaining statutory requirements and users’ needs, etc. Our work included continuous testing in various aspects and data collection, modification and fine-tuning of the design. The idea of acoustic window was gradually turned into a reality. Ngai Pui-yan, Jo said, "We set up an actual size mock-up flat using the acoustic windows in San Po Kong, and conducted tests in comparison with the actual flat using conventional window design to verify that the acoustic window could reduce the traffic noise impact effectively, and at the same time maintain natural air ventilation and natural lighting, as well as other factors that we needed to take into consideration." Through collaborations and concerted efforts of departments, the acoustic windows were finally adopted in King Tai Court, which has its first occupants in 2017. As it is situated at a location impacted by heavy traffic, it was the first public housing estate fully installed with the acoustic windows. In 2018, the acoustic windows were formally introduced into the modular flat design of public housing estates. Yeung Kwok-leung, Maurice said, "We have a range of measures for different housing estates and for units of different sitting direction. For example, we can install sound absorption material to enhance the noise reduction effect. Overall speaking, having conducted testings and on-site verifications, we find that the acoustic window can reduce noise as high as 8 decibels. In general, if traffic flow is reduced by half, noise is reduced by 3 decibels. So it produces very satisfactory results." The design concept of acoustic window jointly developed by the Housing Department,  Environmental Protection Department and Buildings Department can also be deployed to construct “Acoustic Balconies”. The combined effort of the three departments in the  development of “acoustic windows”and “acoustic balconies” showcases an exemplary cross-departmental innovative collaboration. The Housing Department will continue to use the design concept of acoustic windows and acoustic balconies to optimise land resources and increase flat production. (For more details, please visit Sevice Excellence Website)

We can recycle e-waste

How would you handle idle home appliances? The Producer Responsibility Scheme on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WPRS) came into effect in 2018 indeed. Through the WPRS, relevant waste electrical and electronic equipment must be directed to licensed recycling facilities for proper treatment and recycling, turning waste into resources, thus offering a long term solution to potential land contamination and environmental problems arising from mishandling during transfer, storage and dismantling processes. In fact, there are at least five ways to handle unwanted electrical appliances. Statutory Free Removal ServiceThe WPRS provides a convenient recycling channel for the proper collection of used equipment requiring disposal. Upon purchase of a new REE item, including air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, computers, printers, scanners and monitors, members of the public are entitled to a statutory free removal service arranged by the seller to collect a used item of the same class. For details, please contact REE sellers, or click here to read more. Collection Hotline (2676 8888)Apart from the statutory free removal service, the Government also introduced a new and free collection service. Members of the public not purchasing a new REE item can make an appointment with the operator for the Government for a free collection service through the recycling hotline 2676 8888. This service will not only promote recycling, but it will also save members of the public the burden of disposing the used REE on their own or at a cost. Community Green Stations (CGSs)All CGSs accept waste electrical and electronic equipment for which will be transferred to suitable recyclers for handling.  Please click here for details of the CGSs.E-waste Collection VehicleThe e-waste collection vehicle stations in 18 districts at Saturdays and Sundays on a roster basis to collect e-waste from the public. There are also collection station, education and publicity activities to introduce the importance of proper e-waste recycling. Please click here for details.Donation ServiceWEEE·PARK refurbishes some serviceable electrical appliances for donation to people in need for reuse, promoting a loving and caring community while going green. Refurbished appliances available for donation include refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and televisions. Application should be made through referral by registered social worker. Please click here to download the application form.

T▪PARK – Transformation: Waste-to-Energy (Environmental Protection Department)

To support the concept of “waste-to-energy” and to promote a sustainable waste management strategy, T▪PARK, the first sludge incineration facility in Hong Kong was built in Tsang Tsui, Tuen Mun by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD). The facility is capable of processing up to 2,000 tonnes of sludge per day. In the past, sludge was disposed of at landfills, and this new approach has greatly alleviated the burden of depleting limited landfill capacity in Hong Kong. T▪PARK is also the largest and most advanced facility of its kind, combining sludge incineration, power generation, seawater desalination and wastewater treatment.AN INSPIRING AND MODERN DESIGNAt the beginning of the planning stage, EPD gathered the views of the public and later set up the District Liaison Group to strengthen communication with the key stakeholders. Many valuable suggestions, such as the expansion of the education centre and the addition of spa facilities, were incorporated into the design of T▪PARK. From the naming of the facility, the venue design, to the exhibits and the promotional activities, T▪PARK adopted an inspiring and modern design which combines environmental education with lifestyle trends to make it more attractive to the public.The design of the environmental education centre is highly innovative. The most eye-catching parts are the three indoor spa pools with different temperatures, which are maintained by the energy recovered from the sludge incineration process. The pools give the public a taste of the benefits of the “waste-to-energy” concept. The exhibition hall features a 180-degree projector to simulate the sludge treatment process in an interesting and interactive way via the use of sound, films and pictures, and lets the visitors experience what it would be like inside the incinerator. There is also an indoor walkway along the key processing areas where visitors can see the plant operation. T▪PARK features many environmental and conservational elements, including a bird sanctuary and a vegetarian eco-cafe which follows Food Wise, a food waste reduction campaign.WASTE-TO-RESOURCES, AND A FURTHER UNDERSTANDING OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONLocated next to a landfill outside the city centre of Hong Kong, T▪PARK is kept attractive to visitors by incorporating various creative elements in its exhibitions. One of the best examples is the furniture used in the cafe which is crafted from fender wood of the ex-Wanchai Ferry Pier area, showcasing the “waste-to-resources” concept.     Turning Ambition into Reality: Waste-to-energyWAN Gar-ling - Environmental Protection Officer, Environmental Protection Department. (For more details, please visit Sevice Excellence Website)