22 October 2019
The Democratic Party unveils the results of tests on water samples from eight households in Oi Yat House. Photo: Democratic Party
The Democratic Party unveils the results of tests on water samples from eight households in Oi Yat House. Photo: Democratic Party

Fear returns after heavy metals found in drinking water

Some residents of Oi Tung Estate, a public rental housing estate in Shau Kei Wan, are worried that their drinking water has been tainted by heavy metals, although the government said it is safe to drink.

The incident recalled the lead-in-water saga in several public housing estates in 2015. 

Residents of Oi Yat House, one of the six blocks of the estate, filed complaints with the Water Supplies Department (WSD) in September last year, saying their drinking water had a bad smell, was dark yellow and had black granules in it, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The situation improved after the department installed water filters but complaints have again emerged in recent months.

A woman in her nineties, who has been living in Oi Yat House for nearly eight years, said she feels itchy after a shower and suspects the problem is in the water.

After receiving complaints from 30 households in the building and from other housing estates in Shau Kei Wan, the Democratic Party collected water samples.

The samples – about 20 liters were from eight households that were not equipped with water filters. These were sent to two government-accredited laboratories for tests.

The results, which were unveiled on Tuesday, showed the samples had two grams of black granules containing multiple metallic impurities, including lead, aluminum, zinc and copper.

Lead accounted for most of the impurities at 27.7 percent. About 8.5 percent of the impurities were found to be iron in 6.5 liters of the samples collected.

So Yat-hang, a community officer of the party, said it has been medically proven that long-term intake of lead can affect development of human intelligence.

The WSD said in a report to the Eastern District Council that it tested drinking water at Oi Yat House after it received complaints on Nov. 16 and found the water quality met its standards.

It said the water was drinkable, adding the metallic impurities might have been aged asphalt that came off from inside the water pipes.

Calling the report unacceptable, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung urged the WSD to take follow-up actions and find the source of the impurities as soon as possible.

In response, the WSD said on Tuesday it had switched to other government pipes to supply water to Oi Yat House, adding that its on-site examinations confirmed there were no metallic impurities.

It said the higher amount of iron found in the water in question will not harm human health. The World Health Organization has not set a standard for iron concentration in water, it added.

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