Water testing for all schools sought as contamination spreads

August 26, 2015 13:06
St. Francis of Assisi's Caritas School in Shek Kip Mei has suspended use of water dispensers on the campus. Photos: Commercial Radio

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union has called on the government to test the quality of drinking water in all the 2,187 school in the territory after water samples from another school were found to have excessive lead content.

St. Francis of Assisi's Caritas School (SFACS) in Shek Kip Mei was the second school to have tested positive for water contamination after SKH St. Thomas’ Primary School in Sham Shui Po, Ming Pao Daily reported on Wednesday.

Union president Fung Wai-wah estimated that only about HK$4 million was needed to collect and test at least six water samples from each school.

Fung suggested that priority be given to school campuses that were built within the last 10 years and the 60 primary schools that have undergone refurbishment or reconstruction.

The union also urged the government to provide financial assistance and guidelines to schools which opt to conduct their own water testing.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said the government will hold a cross-departmental meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue.

Ng said he has been informed that many schools have now installed water filters for their drinking fountains and faucets while the students themselves bring their own water supplies.

As such, he said, the government is giving priority to residents of public housing estates.

The Education Bureau later said staff have been sent to follow up on the case involving SFACS, which is near Shek Kip Mei Estate Phase Two, where water samples also had tested positive for lead contamination.

Three of the five water samples at SFACS were found to have exceeded the safety limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for lead, which is 10 milligrams per liter of water.

One of the samples collected from a water dispenser at the school playground was found to contain 220 mg of lead per liter of water, which is 21 times above the WHO limit.

Two other samples, taken from the central kitchen and canteen, were found to have 25 mg and 26 mg of lead per liter of water, respectively.

The school has suspended use of the water dispenser and the kitchen, while water filters have been installed at the canteen for students. Bottled water is also available at vending machines.

-- Contact us at [email protected]