The government has announced that it will cease the distribution of bottled water at the 11 public estates affected by the excessive lead in water scandal. However, a lawmaker who exposed the scandal said that distribution should continue as the affected pipes have yet to be replaced.

Since the discovery of excess lead in drinking water in July, the Housing Department (HD) began to distribute bottled water to tenants, as they were concerned about water safety. As of December 3, the HD had distributed around 8.5 million bottles of water, at a total cost of around HK$51 million.

Kai Ching Estate.
Bottled water at Kai Ching Estate.

Other measures by the government and the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) included supplying water from standpipes, and requesting the contractors who built the estates to connect pipes from roof-top tanks to each floor of the block. Contractors were also asked to install or replace filter cores within two years for affected domestic households free of charge.

The HD said it will keep in view the installation progress of the water filters and the temporary water points at the various estates, and cease distribution of bottled water after the temporary water points in the last estate are put into use, in order to allow tenants a period of adjustment.

“Currently, filter installations have been completed, and the temporary water points in the last estate were put into use yesterday in Un Chau Estate Phase 2 and 4” An HD spokesperson said. “In determining the exact date for ceasing the distribution of bottled water, we will take into account factors such as the festive season and holidays.”

The exact date for ending the distribution has yet to be announced.

Helena Wong Pik-wan.
Helena Wong Pik-wan.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, who helped expose the scandal, told Oriental Daily that even though water filters were installed, the pipes of the estates have not been completely replaced. The HD should not therefore cease distribution of bottled water, she added.

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.