Fire Services Department responds to environmental concerns after white foam incident in Tseung Kwan O

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Siu Chik Sha

18th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) White foam was discovered in a water pond at Siu Chik Sha, Tseung Kwan O, on the evening of April 17. The Fire Services Department (FSD) has addressed the incident, linking it to a recent firefighting foam test at the nearby Fire and Ambulance Services Academy (FASA).

According to a spokesperson from the FSD, during a routine test involving “biodegradable fluorine-free firefighting foam,” it is suspected that some of the foam escaped the designated containment systems. Instead of being processed through the foam treatment facility, an amount appears to have inadvertently entered the stormwater drainage system, leading to the foam’s appearance in the local water pond.

The FSD has taken swift action following the discovery, emphasizing the seriousness with which it views the incident. Immediate measures included cleaning the stormwater drainage system at the FASA and conducting thorough testing of the water samples by the Government Laboratory. The department has also initiated an inspection of the foam treatment system to prevent future occurrences and contracted cleaning crews to address contamination in nearby channels. These channels have been cleared as of late afternoon on April 18, with ongoing monitoring planned over the following days.

In response to the incident, the FASA has temporarily halted all training exercises that involve the use of firefighting foam. This suspension will remain in effect until both the cleaning efforts are complete and the foam treatment system has been fully inspected and deemed secure.

The foam used in the test is described as a fluorine-free variant that is biodegradable and designed to avoid lingering environmental impacts as a persistent organic pollutant. This aligns with global shifts towards more environmentally friendly firefighting solutions.

FASA’s facilities are equipped with a sophisticated foam treatment plant which includes collection and storage tanks designed to handle and decompose foam liquid safely. The system’s capacity is substantial, capable of holding up to 250 cubic metres of foam liquid, although the volume produced in the test was reported as 52 cubic metres. Regular maintenance and inspections are carried out by a specialized contractor to ensure the system’s operational integrity.

The FSD has affirmed its commitment to cooperating with relevant departments to ensure comprehensive follow-up on this issue. The department’s proactive approach in addressing the spill, assessing its impact, and preventing future leaks highlights its dedication to environmental safety and adherence to best practices in emergency services operations.