Water lead scandal was a “collective failure”

Water lead scandal was a “collective failure”

A new report says that last year’s lead-poisoned water problem was due to officials shirking responsibility


Residents of Kai Ching Estate in Kai Tak carry empty bottles for stocking water.
Photo: SCMP

The lead-in-water scandal that disrupted summer for many Hongkongers last year has been blamed on “buck-passing” by a new report this week. Investigators urged the government to retest drinking water at all the city’s ­public housing estates.

Four senior government officials – housing chief Professor ­Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, ­development minister Paul Chan Mo-po, Director of Housing ­Stanley Ying Yiu-hong and Director of Water Supplies Enoch Lam Tin-sing – apologised for what the inquiry called a “collective failure” to prevent the ­scandal. The government spent HK$100 million and months trying to fix the problem.

"Most disastrous holiday I've ever had": summer tainted by lead

Eleven public housing estates were found to have drinking water with a lead level of more than 10 ­micrograms per litre – the maximum recommended by the World Health ­Organisation. But Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor did not apologise, insisting she had done her duty and saw no intentional breach of rules on the government’s part.

The commission, led by a High Court judge, said leaded solder in the pipes had directly caused the contamination, even though,
on paper, the Housing Authority, Water Supplies Department,
their contractors and plumbers were all supposed to use lead-free solder.

“This multi-barrier checking system turned out to be no more than a paper system, resulting in a classic case of buck-passing,” the report concluded.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Water lead scandal a “collective failure”


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