Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
LCQ19: Schools affected by incidents of excessive lead content in drinking water

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Kin-yuen and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):


     The Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water (the Commission) submitted the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water (the Report) to the Government at the end of last month. The relevant standards of the International Organization for Standardization as quoted in the Report state that "[i]f the effects of materials on water quality are being investigated, then the 'initial draw-off' should be sampled". The expert witnesses of the Commission have also confirmed that the test results indicated that the ratio of the samples of initial draw-off found to have excessive (i.e. exceeding the provisional guideline value set out in the World Health Organization's Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality) lead content was higher than that of "fully-flushed" samples. Moreover, as at 16 December 2015, the Education Bureau (EDB) has conducted water tests for 772 kindergartens and 73 schools, and among the 2 223 drinking water samples, only 19 samples were found to have excessive lead content. However, some parents have pointed out that as EDB has taken fully-flushed water as samples, it is very likely that the lead content in the drinking water in school premises has been underestimated. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has assessed the risk currently faced by teachers and students in consuming the drinking water in schools; if it has assessed and the results indicate a high risk, whether it will adopt immediate measures to reduce such risk;

(2) whether it will conduct water tests for kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools again by sampling initial draw-off; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether it will expeditiously formulate a comprehensive drinking water safety plan for schools, including but not limited to the provision of free blood testing and healthcare follow-up services for the young school children and the pregnant and lactating teachers of those schools in which the drinking water has been confirmed to have excessive lead content, as well as conducting body checks and tests for them when necessary; and

(4) given that high-level inter-departmental meetings were immediately convened by the authorities during the initial stage of the incident of excessive lead found in the drinking water in public housing estates to follow up the incident, whether the authorities will make the same arrangement by convening inter-departmental meetings to coordinate the efforts of relevant government departments in ensuring the safety of drinking water in kindergartens and schools and helping the affected teachers and students?



     The Government attaches great importance to the safety of drinking water at schools as well as kindergartens. To enhance their understanding over safety of drinking water and on how to reduce lead exposure, the Education Bureau (EDB) has issued letters to all schools on the health advice for reducing lead exposure provided by the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) for schools, and distributed a booklet on "Hong Kong's Water Supply - Reducing Lead in Drinking Water" to all schools and kindergartens. The EDB has also organised talks on "Reducing lead exposure and drinking water safety" in collaboration with the DH and the Water Supplies Department.

     My reply to the Hon Ip Kin-yuen's question is as follows:

     The Government released the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water (the Report) on May 31. The Report analysed the causes of the incident, provided recommendations over the safety of drinking water in Hong Kong, including the suggestions that the Government should review the existing legislation and regulatory system, and establish the "Hong Kong Drinking Water Standards" by making reference to overseas experience and practices. The Government will proactively follow up these forward-looking suggestions in accordance with priorities. The high level inter-departmental meeting chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration would be convened as and when necessary to coordinate work by relevant bureaux and departments.  

     The Government is also aware that the Commission of Inquiry has made some recommendations over the formulation of drinking water standard and water sampling method. To this end, the Development Bureau (DEVB) has set up a five-person International Expert Panel to offer objective, scientific and expert advices over the formulation of a set of drinking water standard and a water sampling protocol for investigating lead contamination in inside services, as well as the associated action level, compliance rate and the follow-up actions that are suitable for local circumstances. It is hoped that a set of proposal applicable to the Hong Kong situation could be made available within six to nine months for follow-up.

     Insofar as the water sampling protocol is concerned, experts of the Commission of Inquiry also agreed that at present, a commonly acceptable global sampling method was not available. Different places have adopted different sampling methods for different purposes. It is therefore hard to make a simple comparison. The level of lead content to trigger follow-up actions also varies internationally. Any follow-ups should be planned thoroughly so as to relieve the public's concern. The EDB will continue to work closely with the DEVB and relevant professional departments and take follow-up actions as appropriate.

     To ensure the quality and safety of drinking water at schools, the EDB has in October 2015 installed certified filters which can reduce lead content in water for public sector schools and Direct Subsidy Scheme Schools built by the Government in 2005 or after, and assisted kindergartens and schools to order filters and cartridge through the filter suppliers appointed by the Government under open tender at the agreed prices within the tender contract period (i.e. until November 11, 2016). The EDB will maintain close liaison with schools and provide necessary support.

Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:12


Print this page