24 May 2019
A water sample from the De Novo project in Kai Tak is said to have contained lead content 30% above the permissible limit. Photo: HKEJ
A water sample from the De Novo project in Kai Tak is said to have contained lead content 30% above the permissible limit. Photo: HKEJ

Excess lead found in a water sample at URA’s De Novo project

A water sample collected at De Novo, the first subsidised housing project of the Urban Renewal Authority (URA), was found to have lead content 30 percent above the permissible limit.

Apple Daily reporters took four water samples from the Kai Tak housing project, which is expected to be ready for occupation this year. Test results from government-recognized laboratories revealed that one of the samples had lead content of 13 mg per liter, 30 percent above the limit.

Meanwhile, another sample showed lead content close to the upper limit, the paper said.

The URA has said that all the water pipes used at the residential project were connected with lead-free welding materials.

It claimed that 32 water samples it collected from the site have all shown lead content of less than one mg per liter.

It is worth noting that De Novo is only one block away from Kai Ching Estate, which was the first public housing estate to have excessive lead levels found in its water in tests last year.

The URA rolled out 338 flats at the beginning of this month, with a 20 percent discount being offered to qualified buyers. The application period for purchases will close on January 21. Some 32 demonstration flats are now open for public viewing.

Apple Daily reporters collected a water sample from each of the four buildings at De Novo.

The URA said in July last year that the pipes were welded with silver welding materials, and that specialists were deployed on-site to ensure no materials with lead content were used.

A URA spokesperson noted that the Water Supplies Department (WSD) has very stringent requirements on water samples collection, and that the accuracy of results could be affected if samples are not collected in accordance with strict procedures.

Wu Chi-wai, a non-executive director of URA, said it would be unacceptable if water samples from De Novo were found to have excessive lead levels, as the URA has a responsibility to ensure that all the materials used complied with the necessary safety standards.

He called on the government agency to conduct a thorough water test at De Novo.

William Chui Chun-ming, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, questioned the suggested method from WSD to collect water samples. Taking samples after allowing the tap to run for two to five minutes would not be sufficient to ensure public safety, he said.

He added that people normally would not leave the tap running for five minutes before using the water.

Chui said the government should adopt stricter standards, such as collecting water samples from overnight.

His views were echoed by a specialist who testified at a meeting held by the Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water.

Chik Tak-ming, technical director at the Hong Kong Licensed Plumbers Union, said the high lead content in the water samples could mean that some of the fitting materials were not up to standard.

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