Lead scandal tenants to get subsidies on their water bills

November 12, 2015 10:49
Carrie Lam (inset) says the main pipe contractors in the lead-in-water scandal have agreed to compensate the affected tenants but the gesture is not an admission of guilt. Photos: HKEJ, tvb.com

Households affected by a tainted water scandal will receive subsidies of up to HK$660 (US$85.20) on their water bills.

More than 30,000 households and non-residential units in 11 public housing states recently found to have excessive lead in their water supply are eligible for the subsidies, Ming Pao Daily reports.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam made the announcement Wednesday after the estates' four main water pipe contractors agreed to pay HK$20 million in compensation to affected tenants.

The Housing Authority said the amount is equivalent to a year’s water charges for 70 percent of those households.

But some residents of Kai Ching Estate and Kwai Luen Estate said the offer does not go far enough.

They want the Housing Authority to waive housing rents instead.

The contractors will spend HK$140 million to install temporary pipes and undertake permanent replacement.

Lam said the gesture is not an admission of guilt but a show of goodwill.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) earlier proposed the subsidies but denied these have anything to do with the upcoming district elections.

Meanwhile DAB member Cheung Yiu-pan, a candidate from Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, one of the affected estates, was seen distributing pamphlets claiming credit for the pro-establishment party.

Democratic Party’s Helena Wong said the subsidies are the least the contractors can do.

She criticized them for failing to work out a timeline to replace the pipes.

Wong stopped short of saying pro-government politicians are trying to use the subsidies for election purposes but said it was her party that exposed the scandal.

Ivan Choy, a political commentator in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said it's obvious the government is using these developments to boost pro-establishment parties.

He compared the move with a similar strategy on the eve of the 2012 Legislative Council elections when the government withdrew a controversial national education curriculum after a massive protest.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Development Paul Chan downplayed the impact of the water scandal on ongoing public housing construction.

However, there might be delays of up to two months, he said.

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