Excessive lead has been found in water samples at a primary school in Shek Kip Mei, marking the second time an educational institute has been affected by the citywide scandal.

Out of the five water samples tested at St Francis of Assisi’s Caritas School, three were found to carry lead contents that are over safety standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to an announcement put out by the school on Tuesday.

One sample from a filtered tap providing drinking water in the school’s playground contained 220 micrograms of lead per litre—21 times over the WHO standard.

St. Francis of Assisi's Caritas School in Shek Kip Mei. Photo: Gov HK.
St. Francis of Assisi’s Caritas School in Shek Kip Mei. Photo: Gov HK.

Yiu Fan, the head of the school, told i-Cable that she was surprised by the results, as the water filter in the tap was last checked in May.

The school has ceased use of the tap as well as its kitchen. It will be purchasing a vending machine that offers bottled water and ordering meals for students through a food services provider.

The school made the decision to carry out tests after water samples at a nearby public estate were found to be contaminated with lead.

The Education Bureau is following up on the incident. The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union has also urged the Education Bureau to examine water supplies at all schools, prioritising those that were built in the last decade.

Last week, excessive lead was found in water samples at a primary school in Sham Shui Po, marking the first time lead contamination was found outside of housing estates. Ten housing estates have been affected to date.

The lead contamination was revealed in early July following a water sampling investigation at Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City. Water samples at other estates were subsequently found to contain lead, turning the scandal into a citywide concern.

An independent commission chaired by a judge was appointed to investigate the lead-in-water scandal. The commission is expected to report in nine months.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.