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LCQ12: Fresh water pipes in public markets
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     Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):

Question:

     A certain number of public markets and cooked food centres (markets and centres) managed by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) were built many years ago.  Some stall operators in those premises have pointed out that the fresh water pipes in such markets and centres have aged seriously and corroded, resulting in impurities such as rust being found in the fresh water.  Given that the stall operators need to use fresh water to wash the food ingredients for sale and cook food for patrons' consumption, the situation that the fresh water is of inferior quality will harm public health and undermine the business environment.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the materials used for the fresh water pipes in various markets and centres in the territory, the number of years for which they have been used, and the dates on which the maintenance works were last carried out;

(2) whether FEHD regularly checks the conditions of the fresh water pipes in various markets and centres as well as carries out maintenance works; if FEHD does, of the details, if FEHD does not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether FEHD has plans to replace the fresh water pipes in various markets and centres; if FEHD does, of the details; if FEHD does not, the reasons for that;

(4) whether FEHD will, when co-ordinating works to replace the fresh water pipes, adopt an implementation method that will cause less disruption to the operation of the stalls, such as removing old pipes only after installing new ones; if FEHD will, of the details; if FEHD will not, the reasons for that; and

(5) whether FEHD regularly monitors the quality of fresh water in various markets and centres; if so, of the guideline value adopted; the results of the last three monitoring exercises; whether FEHD has formulated measures to ensure that the fresh water in various markets and centres is safe for consumption; if FEHD has, of the details; if FEHD has not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     According to the Waterworks Ordinance (Cap. 102), the Water Supplies Department (WSD) is responsible for maintaining the Government's water supply system to the connection point at the building's lot boundary.  As to the internal plumbing system, the water pipes in communal parts from the lot boundary to individual flats of the building are maintained by the agent (usually the property management agent or the owners' committee), while those inside a flat are maintained by the user (usually the property owner).

     Separately, where the facilities concerned are in government buildings, in general, the relevant departments will normally entrust the maintenance works for the internal plumbing systems to the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD).  There are 101 public markets under the management of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), including 76 markets (with cooked food centres in 39 of them) and 25 stand-alone cooked food markets.  ArchSD has been entrusted with maintaining the internal plumbing systems of the 101 markets.  The major areas of work include cleansing water tanks (Note), conducting regular inspections, carrying out maintenance works, and upgrading the pipes where necessary.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) According to ArchSD, galvanised steel pipes were usually used as water pipes for markets built in the early days, while ductile iron pipes and copper pipes have been in use in recent years.  The galvanised steel pipes will be replaced depending on their conditions or where necessary.  Annex 1 gives the name of each existing public market and the year of commissioning.

(2)  Upon receiving a report from FEHD on pipe damage, ArchSD will immediately check the internal plumbing system concerned and arrange for timely repairs to ensure the system's stability.  Having regard to the age of the properties under its care, ArchsD also conducts regular inspections covering areas including internal plumbing systems.

(3) Should FEHD staff come across any problem with the fresh water pipes in the course of patrolling public markets, they will immediately notify ArchSD to arrange for maintenance work.  In addition, FEHD will provide support to plans suggested by ArchSD for replacement of fresh water pipes in public markets.  Such works will be completed in phases.  ArchSD will take reference from and comply with the prevailing applicable technical guidelines issued by WSD.

(4) Before works to replace fresh water pipes are carried out, FEHD will request ArchSD to programme the works arrangements in a manner sensitive to the physical environment of individual markets and their mode of operation.  FEHD will also seek the views of the affected tenants and the Market Management Consultative Committees on the details of the works, as so to minimise any adverse impact that such works may have on market tenants and patrons.  

(5) Through promoting voluntary subscription to the "Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings íV Fresh Water", WSD encourages owners and property management agents to properly maintain the internal plumbing systems of their buildings.  To gain certification under the scheme, subscribers will have to regularly inspect the internal plumbing system, cleanse the water tanks and take water samples from the system for testing to make sure that the water quality complies with the relevant standards.  Thus far, 37 FEHD markets, as listed in Annex 2, were awarded certificates by WSD under the scheme between 2014 and 2015.  In December 2015, WSD introduced an enhanced version of the scheme, with four heavy metals (i.e. lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel) added to the list of substances requiring testing and the scope of water sampling expanded.

Note: ArchSD will clean the fresh water tanks once every three months in accordance with the technical guidelines of WSD.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:27

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