Give Water Filters to Hong Kong Families Hit by Lead Contamination Scare, Government Urged

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Global Water News, Water Contamination
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Residents collect fresh water at a temporary distribution point at the Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City on Thursday. Photo: Sam Tsang

Article courtesy of Gloria Chan | July 24, 2015 | South China Morning Post | Shared as educational material

The Hong Kong government should provide water filters to families affected by the lead-in-water contamination scare in order to quickly and effectively ease their worries, Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit urged yesterday.

Choice Magazine, a monthly publication by the Consumer Council, published in its February issue a table on water filters that claim to remove lead and the government should immediately give such filters to families affected by the scare, Leong said.

“The government said it has been testing filters and I urge them in terms of crisis management not to sit on it for so long,” he said. “This is a way to deal with the agitation and restlessness of residents.”

Excessive lead content has been found by the government in the tap water at three public housing estates – Kowloon City’s Kai Ching Estate, Kwai Luen Estate in Kwai Ching and Wing Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po – involving more than 9,500 households.

Meanwhile, Sha Tin’s Shui Chuen O Estate, Sham Shui Po’s Shek Kip Mei Estate, and Lei Tung Estate in Ap Lei Chau also have excessive lead, according to water samples taken by local political parties.

READ MORE: Hong Kong government plans to give filters to those affected by lead in water – if it can find the right model

On Wednesday, Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the government plans to give filters to residents once it can determine which model will be effective at removing the heavy metal.

“If we can find qualified filters, we will arrange them for affected estates,” Cheung said, after Leong asked whether filters could be distributed to residents as the quickest way to ease their concerns over elevated lead levels in their tap water.

Professor Karen Mak Ka-wai, lecturer at Baptist University’s chemistry department, said water filters certified with NSF 53 claim to be able to screen away harmful substances such as lead and mercury in water. “But consumers should look into individual products as different models have different capabilities,” she added.

As a long term measure, Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki called for the establishment of a law on “safe drinking water”.

“The Waterworks Regulations CAP 102A we now have is very old,” Kwok said, adding that the new law should cover the quality of drinking water and water supply infrastructure.

Before the water contamination scare, the Water Supplies Department did not check for lead levels. But now, lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel have been added to water quality testing parameters.

As specified by the World Health Organisation, the respective acceptable concentration levels of the four heavy metals are equal or fewer than 10 micrograms per litre for lead; 3mcg/l for cadmium; 50mcg/l for chromium; and 70mcg/l for nickel.

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