Article courtesy of Fanny W. Y. Fung, Lai Ying-kit, Ng Kang-chung and Ann Yip | July 14, 2015 | South China Morning Post | Shared as educational material
Another 1,500 Hong Kong households are now affected by the public housing tap water contamination scandal, after officials confirmed that excessive lead had been found in samples taken from two residential blocks in Kwai Chung.
It came four days after the government admitted that levels of lead exceeding the World Health Organisation standard were found in tap water in Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City – home to around 5,000 families – following an exposé by the Democratic Party.
The latest residents affected live in Luen Yuet House and Luen Yat House in Kwai Luen Estate, a public rental housing development completed last year.
Tap water samples from five flats were found to contain lead at levels ranging from 10.4 to 23.3 micrograms per litre – higher than the WHO guideline of 10.
The discovery came as the Government Laboratory extended tests to four estates that used the same licensed plumber as Kai Ching Estate. The 1,400 households in Cheung Sha Wan Estate, Sham Shui Po, and 1,000 households in Lung Yat Estate, Tuen Mun, were relieved as the laboratory found no water sample with lead levels contravening the international standard, although their pipes were also handled by plumber Lam Tak-sum.
There will be further checks at Shui Chuen O Estate, where water samples from an unoccupied flat in Hei Chuen House were found to have lead levels at 14 micrograms per litre.
Housing minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung announced he would recommend a Housing Authority review of the monitoring system for building quality.
“I think we need to do a body check on the system within the Housing Authority in terms of how we monitor materials, how we monitor the works progress, including prefabricated parts, and how we monitor every step within the construction process,” he said. The authority will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow.
Director of Water Supplies Enoch Lam Tin-sing said his department’s records showed no private housing development had hired the same plumber.
The contractor of Kwai Luen Estate was Shui On Building Contractors Ltd, while China State Construction Engineering (Hong Kong) carried out the construction of Kai Ching Estate.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said government tests found that lead-containing substances binding joints in water pipes and banned soldering materials were most likely to blame for the water scare at Kai Ching.
“We don’t rule out the possibility of other parts in the water supply system, such as taps, containing lead,” Leung said.
Lam later added that preliminary tests also showed high levels of lead in soldering materials in pipes in Kwai Luen Estate.
Of the seven flats where water samples with excessive lead were found, only one used a prefabricated kitchen with a built-in pipe, according to director of housing Stanley Ying Yiu-hong. But the government had not completely ruled out prefabricated units as a source of lead.
Ying and Cheung both apologised for earlier confusing messages about the number of flats using prefabricated materials.