The contractor responsible for the construction of the Hong Kong Link Road (HKLR) of the HongKong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) has been discharging untreated pollutants directly into the sea for the past three years, Apple Daily reports, directly contravening environmental regulations.

The Highways Department told the newspaper that the contractor, China State Construction Engineering (Hong Kong) Limited, was given a written warning after they were discovered by inspectors to be treating the waste improperly. The Department said that the contractors were asked to cease doing so immediately and that the incident would be recorded in their evaluation report.

The Department said that the contractor had constructed wastewater treatment facilities and sedimentation tanks prior to the commencement of construction and that the sandstone, rubbish, and grease in the wastewater must be separated and filtered before before discharge. An Apple Daily source, however, said that the contractor has been violating regulations all along and had only recently installed the facilities.

Improper waste discharge found by Apple Daily.

Under the environmental permit issued to the HMZB project, contractors must fully comply with existing laws and regulations, including the Water Pollution Control Ordinance. The Director of Environmental Protection has the power to temporarily suspend, amend or revoke the permit if regulations are violated.

The Hong Kong Link Road construction commenced in May 2015. According to the Highways Department website, China State Construction Engineering, which has been signed onto a $8.88 billion contract, is responsible for the design and construction of the section of the HKLR between Scenic Hill and the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities (HKBCF), and roadlinks between the HKBCF and Hong Kong International Airport.

An artificial island for the HKBCF. Photo: Wikicommons.

China State Construction Engineering is also one of the building contractors involved in the construction of 11 public estates where excessive lead content was found in drinking water. The Housing Authority committee decided that it would not consider any new work tenders submitted by the contractor from March to September this year, and will remove the contractor from the HA’s “Premier League of contractors”, effective on Thursday.

In July, Stand News revealed on that the parent company of China State Construction Engineering, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) was blacklisted by the World Bank, making it ineligible for financial support from the international institution.

The delays in the Hongkong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project have been said to have pushed up construction costs, causing Hong Kong to lose billions of dollars. In September, Howard Winn reported that there had been movement in various parts of an artificially reclaimed island that forms part of the bridge project.

Update [October 5]: The Environmental Protection Department told HKFP that the contractors installed the necessary facilities and handed in water quality reports regularly in accordance with the terms under its environmental permit. The Highways Department also confirmed that it had, in the past, found the contractor to be improperly disposing of the wastewater and had already asked the contractor to cease doing so. Neither the Highways Department nor the EPD found any breach of violations last week when the allegations were made – however, both departments say they are investigating.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.