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The recent discovery of lead in fresh water samples, which far exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels, at several public housing estates has given rise to concerns among citizens about the quality and associated health effects of their drinking water. Mr. Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) Vice Chairman; Mr. Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, BPA Co-Vice Chairman; Dr. Lo Wai-kwok, BPA Co-Vice Chairman; Dr. Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Legislative Councillor; Mr. Fong Ping, Kwai Tsing District Council Chairman; and Mr. Alan Lee Chi-keung, Kwai Tsing District Councillor, today (July 16) met with Mr. Yau Shing-mu, Under Secretary for Transport and Housing, to urge government on conducting a thorough investigation to find and rectify the source of contamination.
The BPA has expressed concern with this unfortunate development and put forward a number of short to long-term solutions. These included, among other things, a detailed examination of water tanks, soldering materials and faucets to identify the source of contamination. In the interim, temporary water supply systems should be installed on each floor of the affected buildings to minimise the inconvenience to residents. The BPA has also called on government to adopt a more stringent and proactive approach to water testing to ensure Hong Kong’s water supply were compliant with international health standards.
Mr. Lam pointed out that certain groups knew about water contamination at Kai Ching Estate as early as May 2015, but had chosen to withhold the information until July before going public. Dr. Lo Wai-kwok believed that matters concerning public health should be reported immediately to the relevant authorities to ensure a swift response.
As to the Government’s proposal to replace all water pipes at the affected estates, Dr. Lo pointed out that this would amount to overkill. He suggested focusing instead on pipes or plumbing fixtures that had been found to be compromised to avoid further inconvenience and anxiety to residents (if you need water damage removal service, they’re quite easy to find). His suggestions were received positively by the Transport and Housing Bureau.
Dr. Lo also called for an amendment to existing laws and regulations that would raise standards for water testing. He further called on medical experts to educate the public on the health effects of lead to counter unwarranted panic and stress. In addition, Dr. Leung also urged the Government to provide an explanation of the incident, as well as a timetable for examining water samples and replacing pipes.
Understandably, there had been a rush to buy filtration systems in response to the reports of water contamination. Mr Lam, however, pointed out that not all water filters were capable of removing lead from drinking water and warned against making purchases blindly out of fear. He hoped the Government would provide guidance to assist the public in making informed decisions on their purchases.
During the meeting, BPA District Representatives reflected their constituents’ worries about the lead contamination and expressed hopes that the Government would take concrete measures to conduct a thorough investigation. The BPA also urged the Government to review its building inspection practices for possible loopholes so as to restore the publics’ confidence in the safety of our drinking water safety and the SAR Government.