Water tests have shown that level of E. coli bacteria in the Shing Mun River are 1,300 times higher than Environmental Protection Department (EPD) standards.

Sha Tin District Councillor Scarlett Pong Oi-lan hired a private laboratory in mid-December to conduct the tests, which have revealed that water acidity and suspended solid levels are three times the official standard, Apple Daily reported.

The Fo Tan tributary of the river turned blue earlier this month and then turquoise this week. The Sun reported that the water also gave off a foul smell.

Tributary of Shing Mun River near Fo Tan.

Pong said she suspected the E. coli concentration stemmed from an illegal discharge of animal and human faeces, or a crack in a dung channel. “With such a high level of E. coli, we are quite sure that faeces were discharged into the tributary,” she said.

The EPD took water samples for tests after the river turned blue on December 13. The results showed that the river was polluted by general commercial, industrial, and municipal sewage, Oriental Daily reported.

When the waters turned yellow on December 16, the EPD said that a burst water pipe in Wo Sheung Tun Street and Wong Chuk Yeung Street in Fo Tan had washed soil into the river, discolouring it.

Scarlett Pong Oi-lan.

Pong said the level of E. coli in the water had not reached this level since 1995. She added that the tributary is a popular site for watersports, and that there have been complaints about skin irritation following contact with the water.

She urged the District Council to actively follow up on the pollution.

Koel Chu

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.