Students in limbo over HKU hostel in Kennedy Town

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2012, 2:53am

University of Hong Kong students forced to stay off campus after excessive formaldehyde levels were found in new Kennedy Town residences say they still don't know whether they can move in tomorrow.

Student union president Dan Chan Koon-hong said the university had yet to inform affected students when they could move into the new hostel, two of four blocks in Lung Wah Street.

That's despite HKU saying last Wednesday that the cancer-causing air pollutants would be dispersed in a week.

As of yesterday, about half of the 800 non-local affected students had been given interim accommodation in nearby hotels. Some were living in a youth hostel in Chai Wan and other residences offered by the university. HKU set aside HK$1 million to subsidise students' off-campus accommodation.

The emergency at the much delayed hostel project is believed to be caused by new furniture.

Two of the four blocks will not be completed until next month.

A university spokeswoman said the results of air quality tests over the past six days complied with the government's lowest standard and HKU would soon decide when students could move into the new hostel. "We really hope that they can move in before the new semester begins next Monday," she said.

But Chan is worried the air quality will be worse after students move in. "The university has opened all windows of the hostels to disperse the pollutants right now. But will the formaldehyde level rise in an air-conditioned environment?" he said.

Test results received by the university last Tuesday - the day it revealed the problem to students - showed that of 16 air samples, six had formaldehyde of 103-130 micrograms per cubic metre, exceeding the standard of 100 set by the Environmental Protection Department.

A three-day online survey conducted by the Students Union shows more than 90 per cent of respondents agreed the university should compensate affected students for relocation and commuting costs.

A university spokeswoman said students' health was its top priority and the late communication was a result of hectic arrangements.

Shuttle buses to the Pok Fu Lam campus had been arranged for students living in Chai Wan.