The four building companies responsible for constructing the public housing estates affected by the excessive lead in water scandal will pay part of the households’ water bills in the future, the government has announced.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said after a Legislative Council session on Wednesday that it was not appropriate for the Housing Authority (HA) to pay the affected households. However, the measure from the companies was based on their goodwill and kindness and did not denote responsibility for the scandal, she added.

The punished building contractors. Photo: Flickr.

The four building companies put forward HK$20 million to pay part of the water bills for around 29,000 affected households, and 300 other non-household properties. Each household or property is set to receive HK$660.

The amount was decided based on the most recent average water bill cost per month, times by a period of 12 months.

Previously, the four building companies were told that the HA will not consider any new works tenders submitted by them for a period of between eight months to a year.

Lam said that the four companies will pay different amounts of compensation according to the number of flats they built respectively.

Carrie Lam. File

The compensation will be valid for the the next three years, Lam said. The amount included some administrative charges as well as charges by the Water Supplies Department for a slight adjustment in its system, but she added that the amount for the adjustments is small.

Private labs
Lam also denied the claim that she tried to put pressure on private labs to ask them not to test lead water samples, following a local media report that suggested she had asked lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan to identify the private laboratories conducting water tests in July.

The report raised concerns over whether the government wanted to put pressure on the labs. But Lam said she did not recall asking the question as claimed and that it would have been asked in a casual manner if she had done so.

Lam said that the number of private laboratories capable of doing the tests had increased from eight to ten since the scandal was discovered.

The lead water contamination issue was first brought to light by the Democratic Party in July, after which 11 public housing estates and various schools across Hong Kong were found to have excessive lead content in their water supplies.

Kris Cheng

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.