CityU beats 17 international and local competitors to win environmental project contract

Karen Cheng

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City University of Hong Kong (CityU) was awarded a $4.5m environmental consultancy contract by the Government at a contract signing ceremony today

(13 September) after beating 17 international consultants and local universities in a highly competitive bidding exercise.

The consultancy project is commissioned by the Environmental Protection Department and will be led by CityU's Professor (Chair)

Rudolf Wu Shiu-sun from the Department of Biology and Chemistry and Director of the Centre for Coastal Pollution and Conservation. It aims to develop a suite of chronic toxicity tests to determine and quantify the toxicity of complex effluent and predict the environmental consequences of discharging such effluent into the marine environment.

Toxic effluent can have a profound impact on the marine environment but Hong Kong currently lacks methods for measuring its chronic impact locally and in the region.

The standard protocols for chronic whole effluent toxicity tests to be developed by Professor Wu and his team from the Department of Biology and Chemistry will be used to assess the impact of effluent discharge on water quality, marine ecology and fisheries. Team members include Professor (Chair) Lau Tai-chu and Associate Professors Dr Doris Au Wai-ting, Dr Cheung Siu-gin and Dr Paul Shin Kam-shing.

Professor Wu said the project provided an excellent opportunity for CityU to apply its research for use in the community, a key part of CityU's mission.

"The research team is very excited about the prospect of being able to achieve such a milestone through this consultancy," he said, adding that their appointment amidst keen international competition was a vote of confidence in their experience and expertise.

Upon appointment, the research team will start looking at international practices in establishing testing protocols for chronic tests, identifying suitable local marine species and developing a suite of chronic test protocols for practical use. The whole consultancy project is expected to last two and a half years.

In the past, Professor Wu and his colleagues in the Department of Biology and Chemistry have carried out a number of major consultancies with a total contract exceeding $20 million for the Government and made significant contributions to the management of the marine environment.

Examples include:

· the successful development of 13 bioindicators for monitoring the health of the marine environment, a first in the Asia-Pacific region. The Government fully has adopted the recommendations and included all 13 bioindicators into their routine monitoring programme.

· the establishment of threshold tolerance for local corals to sedimentation, enabling the Government to set guidelines and standards for suspended solids and sedimentation to protect the Hong Kong coral communities. These guidelines are now included in the environmental impact assessment of development projects.

· a study to compare the toxicity of sewage with and without chlorine treatment before discharge. The results of this study enables the Government to evaluate the risk of using chlorination to treat sewage effluent before discharge into coastal waters.

Researchers involved in these projects said their motivation was to contribute to the conservation of marine environment. Dr Shin said their work had helped make concrete progress in the area of pollution monitoring and control. "Through this research, we are being drawn closer to the community," he said.

Dr Au added these consultancies were useful in their teaching, too. "Our students will learn that our research is very practical and up-to-date," she said.

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