The Water Supplies Department (WSD) has said that lead has been found in the soldering material of pipe joints at a private residential building in Sham Shui Po.

The lead checks were conducted on Monday during an inspection of works to replace piping. The news was revealed on Tuesday night, but the department did not reveal the address and name of the building.

Kai Ching Estate
Water Pipes at Kai Ching Estate, first public housing estate found to have lead in water. File photo: Wikimedia Commons.

It is the first suspected case of lead soldering found in plumbing works inside a residential building since the WSD began conducting non-destructive tests on solder joints in August 2015.

A 2015 scandal sparked safety concerns after excess lead was discovered in drinking water at 11 public housing estates.

Replacement work

Work began at the Sham Shui Po building on Monday to replace a 10-metre communal pipe in the building. The WSD said that pipes to individual units were not affected.

The WSD said it immediately collected water samples from the building, including residential units on the upper floors and two commercial units on the ground floor.

“The results showed that the lead levels of all the samples complied with the World Health Organization’s Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality,” it said. “The department has requested the related licensed plumber to replace non-compliant materials and notified the related owners’ corporation for notification to the residential and commercial tenants.”

The WSD said it was conducting an in-depth investigation on the suspected case of violation and will take actions if needed. It will also conduct comprehensive inspections on all similar works.

“We have also urged plumbing practitioners not to use leaded solders in new plumbing installation or replumbing works of inside service,” said a WSD spokesman.

Helena Wong Pik-wan
Helena Wong Pik-wan. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, who has been following the lead water scandal, urged the WSD to reveal the address of the building.

“The public cannot tell which building was affected,” she said. “The WSD only said there was no excess in the samples collected from residential and commercial units, but we do not know how many samples were taken.”

Wong said the number of samples could be small, and the WSD may have used its usual means to collect samples – drawing water for two to five minutes after the tap was open, which may not yield accurate results compared to people’s drinking habits.

“The WSD should release all the methods and data,” she said. She added the building’s residents should inspect the water after the works were done.

She also urged the government to conduct further tests on drinking water at all public housing estates using water immediately drawn from the tap.

Kris Cheng

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.