My Take

Time for the big boys to be in hot water over Hong Kong's lead contamination crisis

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 July, 2015, 1:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 July, 2015, 11:17am

Kudos to Helena Wong Pik-wan!

The Democrat lawmaker for Kowloon West constituency who has for years been in the shadows of her noisier party colleagues has finally scored big time.

Wong's exposé of lead contamination at Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City has opened a whole new can of worms. As a journalist, I am jealous. Now every political party, left or right, is jumping on the bandwagon and testing water samples from as many public estates as possible.

The Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, which first found excessive metals in water taps, was beaten to the punch because it waited too long for a reply from the government.

Housing officials from Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung down have been scrambling to contain the crisis.

Two other public housing estates - Kwai Luen Estate in Kwai Chung and Shui Chuen O Estate in Sha Tin - have been found to have excessive lead levels. The government will now test the water at 10 other estates involving 24,000 households.

Given the shabby construction work that is commonly found at public estates, it's probably just a matter of time before more contamination cases come to light.

Lam Tak-sum, the one-legged licensed plumber whom the authorities have tried to make a scapegoat of, has said as much.

In a radio interview yesterday, Lam said the same substandard piping work could be found in many private residential and public estates, including work done by engineering firm Ho Biu Kee, the company that hired him for the Kai Ching Estate job.

The little guy is fighting back.

After trying to throw Lam under the bus, officials like Cheung and Director of Housing Stanley Ying Yiu-hong must now regret having provoked him.

Finally, both men yesterday admitted the main contractors on the three affected estates were ultimately responsible. China State Construction Engineering (Hong Kong) built Kai Ching, while Socam Development - headed by tycoon and former Airport Authority chairman Vincent Lo Hong-sui - was the main contractor for Kwai Luen.

It was bizarre all along to try to lay the blame on a single plumber. Now it's time for the big boys to face the music.