E-Bus for Hong Kong? Not soon Enough

Hong Kong may have a new electric bus, sooner than you think. The new vehicle was spotted around town last week, outside HKPC in Kowloon Tong, and at the Eco Asia Expo 2015 exhibition.

Left to Right: Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Lyndia Hui (Green Council) and John A. Herbert (HAESCO)

Left to Right: Mr Simon Cheung (China Dynamics), Ms Linda Ho (Green Council CEO) and John A. Herbert

Considering Hong Kong’s small area, this E-Bus must be killer app for Hong Kong’s urban pollution problems. I understand that many argue against EV’s because the rational is that EV’s merely move the pollution problem from our lungs to the distant electricity generating stations, and they claim that is a problem?

Repeated studies have shown the pollution at street level is often intolerable with excess PM2.5 PM10 and NOX. (nitrogen oxides). However, these power generating stations already have pollution control measures in place, and are discharged far from the lungs of busy pedestrians presently dodging the fumes in Central.

Burning diesel at street level should be a crime nowadays! Now we know, the diesel combustion (petroleum diesel not bio diesel) process the combustion is incomplete, and creates tiny microscopic soot particles, they are so small they are easily inhaled, hence the grave concern over particulates in the PM2.5-10 range. Hong Kong’s EPD in fact publish the monitoring data:

Screenshot - EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

Screenshot – EPD Pollution Monitoring Data

And the source of those PM2.5 and PM10 particulates? the overwhelming majority are created by diesel engine discharged at lung (street) level. Furthermore, I understand that the E-Bus creators (designed in Hong Kong!) have useful applications in mind for the ‘used’ batteries, to avoid creating another waste problem dealing with spent batteries. I had a tour, inside it looks like every other Hong Kong bus, in fact you would find it hard to distinguish between the diesel  version, except for the tailpipe.

Another sustainability perspective to consider, beside being conceived and designed in Hong Kong, it is manufactured close to home, avoiding the related emissions caused from importing buses from Europe which I understand is the usual practice.

Let us hope it is on the road, here in Hong Kong, sooner rather than later. One of Hong Kong’s key selling points must be the fantastic low cost, public transport system, but can it be improved? Of course, there is always room for improvement, as Paul Zimmerman points out, there are water taxi’s and ferries that would improve connectivity across the harbour, however the Hong Kong public transport system is one that many cities envy.

Hong Kong’s E-Bus was also featured by RTHK 

e-bus hong kong hkpc by RTHK

credit: RTHK

short link: bit.ly/hongkong-ebus

by John A. Herbert

Solar Powered Copper Mining Australia

Sandfire a copper mining operation in Australia is leading the way with a new $40 million solar farm to power its distant mining operations, far from the grid.

Presently the DeGrussa Copper-Gold Mine, located 900km north-east of Perth in Western Australia, uses diesel for power generation, and the company reports outstanding energy and environmental savings will be achieved using the solar farm to generate power, Carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to be reduced by 12,000 tonnes a year.

The project will comprise 34,080 solar panels covering 20 hectares , combined with 6MW of short-term battery storage to provide peak power for the mining operation by being integrated with existing base-load 19MW diesel-fired power station.

  1. www.sandfire.com.au
  2. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/sandfire-resources-to-build-40m-solar-plant-at-wa-copper-mine/story-e6frg9df-1227442418507
  3. http://www.mining-technology.com/news/newssandfire-resources-build-solar-plant-support-degrussa-copper-mine-operation-australia-4623549


Productivity where are thou

Improving productivity is one of those subjective areas that rarely attracts much attention, studies show that comfort conditions are critical, is it a key part of the goals for a green building, for productively.

Where the people feel their work environment is too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet, productivity drops, and in Hong Kong it is a real issue since most buildings have no winter heating.

A recent survey, by a software company, supports the notion that your workers are dissatisfaction with environmental conditions, and that in turn impacts the productivity of your business.

More detailed than other studies, this survey covers different genders, and different seasons. One finding is stands out immediately the report states 10% of staff are totally dissatisfied.

Whilst this will not be surprising to Building Services engineers who are taught that engineering systems can only satisfy 80% of the occupants in room, It is time to challenge those empirical tests, when we have better options, underfloor distribution, and smart phone computers in our pockets.

However, visit any modern building and you will still find the room sensors in odd positions, often outside the occupied zone, this strategy only provides the general/average room condition (often near the ceiling) not the conditions where the people are working.


Hotel function rooms have sensors located 6m above the occupants, so the HVAC system is working hard to main the conditions for the ceiling zone not the people zone. Also lighting fittings, hand dryers, etc. which act as localized heaters, installed beneath sensors influencing the room conditions.

by John. A. Herbert

Efficiency Vs Death

Everyday in China approx. 4,000 people die as a result of air pollution [1,2,3] – that is staggering!

The report suggests the link with pollution discharged from Coal fired power plants the predominant means for power generation, although the number of vehicles on the roads is also growing rapidly that in turn creates increased roadside pollution.

Improving energy efficiency reduces energy consumption, energy costs, and will save lives! It is a no brainer, yet many firms will not consider improving energy efficiency.


  1. http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1205026-20150814.htm
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/14/air-pollution-in-china-is-killing-4000-people-every-day-a-new-study-finds
  3. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-13/china-air-pollution-kills-4-000-people-a-day-researchers

Kai Ching Estate has Quality Water Certification

The Kai Ching estate, in the middle of the Lead (Pb) ‘scandal’ and the Legionella case associated with Mun Ching House achieved the WSD (http://www.wsd.gov.hk) Quality Water Recognition Scheme for Buildings certification! (see image below). Lead (Pb) is not one of water quality parameters tested.

kai ching estate, lead, legionella, hong kong, water quality certificate

In the past I highlighted Hong Kong’s building water quality issues (here) but my office building is not listed above, I am certain that WSD will revise the criteria after this incident. So far Lead (Pb) contamination of the residents water has been detected in the following sites:

  1. Kai Ching Estate, Kowloon City
  2. Kwai Luen Estate, Kwai Chung
  3. Shui Chuen O Estate, Sha Tin

updated: 17 July 2015

Late yesterday (16 July 2015) WSD published a circular letter no. 1/2015 (Chinese only) online, dated 13 July 2015, it now requires Flats (subject to interpretation) to provide a declaration letter for No Lead in solder, and additional water quality testing parameters in the laboratory report, including:

Lead (Pb)  ≤10 μg/l
Cadmium (Cd)  ≤3 μg/l
Chromium (Cr)  ≤50 μg/l
Nickel (Ni)  ≤70 μg/l

Needless to add that these new requirements only apply to new water meter applications. However, the estimated to be 50,000 renovation projects per year, are not required to conduct any type of water quality test!


Plumbing System Lead (Pb) contaminated Kai Ching Estate Hong Kong ………updated

Lead (Pb) was a common plumbing material, 30 years ago it was used for plumbing piping, after lead piping was banned, it was used in the solder needed to join (small diameter) copper pipework until it was also banned from solder. Lead was also commonly used as flashing for roof construction and constituent in paint (it was subsequently banned from paint too).

For Hong Kong buildings opened before 1995, the standard material for water piping was GI (Galvanised Iron) piping with mechanical screw type GI fittings. GI piping comprises a steel tube (iron) dipped in Zinc to provide a corrosion resistant coating. However, overtime the Zinc coating inside the pipe deteriorates, exposing the underlying steel pipework giving rise to corrosion and poor water quality.

legionella, lead, water, hong kong, Kai Ching estate, public housing

RTHK has been reporting the discovery of LEAD in the water service in the new Kai Ching estate, this has sparked a city wide alert and residents in other housing estates are petitioning government to test their water supplies. In the news, Housing Authority (HA) neatly passed the ownership of the problem to the Contractor, but obviously their quality management is under scrutiny.

public housing lead legionella, lead, water, hong kong, Kai Ching estate

In this Housing Authority (HA) estate the bathrooms were prefabricated, including the plumbing works, in China, and the completed pre-fab units shipped and installed within the building, and connected to the core plumbing system installed by the local plumbing contractor.

RTHK reported (link) that water in several residences contained up to 2.3 times the safe amount of Lead recommended by the World Health Organisation (10 µg/l). The Government struggling to handle the case said that all the plumbing systems may be replaced.

Also CHP are investigating a case of Legionnaires Disease (#Legionella) from the same Kai Ching estate (link) with legionella levels of 0.3-300 cfu/ml reported.

Update: SCMP (http://www.scmp.com) it covered the story too (link) unlinkable, the content in case you can’t access it:

First it was lead, now legionella bacteria found in Kowloon City estate’s water supply

Bacteria that can cause legionnaires’ disease found in Kowloon City estate

The water scare at a Kowloon City public housing estate deepened yesterday after officials said apart from the excessive lead discovered in tap water, legionella bacteria were also traced at several locations in one of the six blocks.

But a health official said it was premature to conclude that the two incidents were connected, and the Housing Department would be disinfecting all blocks in Kai Ching Estate to put residents’ minds at ease. The latest development emerged as the government announced it would set up a task force to investigate why the poisonous metal was found in tap water. Its source remains unknown.

A plumber at the centre of the tainted water scare, Lam Tak-sum, yesterday also said he could not be held fully responsible for what had happened, as he was not in charge of the materials pre-fabricated outside Hong Kong. It was revealed at a government press conference yesterday that a man, 72, was admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital in late May with respiratory problems. He was later diagnosed with what was thought to be legionnaires’ disease. The bacteria were found in his kitchen and bathroom in Mun Ching House. “We immediately arranged to have the pipes replaced, and normally the problem would have been solved,” said Dr Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen from the Centre for Health Protection. “But samples taken later from his flat still contain legionella. We also found the bacteria in another unit as well as another water supply point on the first floor.” Ching said residents in Mun Ching House should use boiled water for showering and brushing their teeth and avoid using shower heads that generate aerosols to help prevent the spread of the bacteria. In severe cases, the disease can cause respiratory failure or even death. Residents in the block criticised the government for failing to ensure their safety since they moved in two years ago. “We used to feel safe living here, but now it’s becoming really chaotic,” a woman said.

Meanwhile, the government is setting up a task force comprising officials from several departments to get to the bottom of the lead scare and put forward recommendations to prevent similar incidents from happening again. Director of Water Supplies Enoch Lam Tin-sing said his colleagues met with the plumber responsible for the Kai Ching Estate project yesterday, and records showed that he did all the water pipe work for the estate – contrary to Lam Tak-sum’s comment to the Oriental Daily newspaper that he was only responsible for the pipes connecting the water mains to the blocks’ water tanks. “The government should make clear who is responsible for what,” Lam said from a wheelchair. “My responsibilities only lie within Hong Kong’s borders. I can’t sign for things that happen outside Hong Kong and I can’t be held responsible for the [pre-made units].”

However, Director of Housing Stanley Ying Yiu-hong said only a “small amount” of pre-fabricated pipes were installed in kitchens and bathrooms in the estate. He did not give any numbers. He would only say that the two unused flats, where lead was found in soldering materials at pipe joints, did not have preinstalled piping. But in a statement issued last night, the government said the bathrooms in all six blocks of Kai Ching Estate were basically pre-fabricated ones, with the pipes of about half of them being fitted on the mainland.

It said the kitchens of only two blocks were pre-fabricated ones, with the pipes of about half of them fitted on the mainland. The two kitchens from where lead in soldering materials was found earlier were not pre-fabricated ones.

Also, of the seven water samples found earlier to have lead content exceeding the World Health Organization standard, only one was taken from the pipe of a pre-fabricated kitchen fitted on the mainland, the government said in the statement. He also said that the department required contractors to provide certification to prove that the materials used were up to standard. The department was now discussing the replacement of pipes at Kai Ching Estate with the contractor, Ying added. Authorities will also take water samples from a Chinese University student dormitory and the Kowloon City Government Offices to check for lead, because the two projects were also handled by Lam. China State Construction International, the main construction contractor of the Kai Ching Estate, declined to comment on its role in the tainted fresh water supplies.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao

(published by SCMP)

Update: 14 July 2015

RTHK has reported that the Government said on Tuesday 14 July 2015 that lead content has been found in water samples taken from five units at from the Kwai Luen Estate at Kwai Chung. (link).

Update: 15 July 2015

The incident has now been promoted to scandal in the local media, the Hong Kong Standard reports that Transport and Housing chief issued apology for mis-stating the number of pre-fab units installed in the Kai Ching Estate (link) it seems now that most of the bathrooms were pre-fabricated.

Also in the Hong Kong Standard (link) reports today (15-7-2015) that:

Lead contamination has been detected in the water supply at two more public housing estates – Kai Luen Estate in Kwai Shing Circuit and Shui Chuen O Estate in Sha Tin. Test samples showed lead levels exceeding WHO recommendations.

We have two issues to consider (1) The quality of materials (and solder) used in the pre-fab units manufactured in China, and the inter-connection to the plumbing system installed by the local plumber, and (2) For Lead contamination in other HA projects, without pre-cast fabrication, past renovation works could be the culprit. Note: In Hong Kong renovation works are governed by WSD, but never inspected.

updated 15th July 2015

WSD published circular letter 2015/1 (Link) on 15th July 2015 on WSD website, but dated 13 July 2015 in Chinese with clarification No Lead (Pb) permitted, and additional water quality testing parameters. Subsequently the English version replaced it, see photo below:


Updated: 16 July 2015

hong kong scmp lead contamination

SCMP reported on the frontpage that the Government vows to carry out Lead (Pb) testing of the water in ten (10) more public housing estates.

Updated: 17 July 2015

RTHK ( link ) reported that the Government testing of the piping joint at Kai Ching Housing Estate Hong Kong had 50% Lead (Pb) content  (by mass or volume was not reported) in the solder.

Kai Ching soldering material has 50% lead


Two samples of solder used in water pipes at a public housing estate in Kowloon City have been found to contain 50 percent lead. That was revealed by the Housing Director Stanley Ying following a Housing Authority’s meeting to discuss the water contamination scare. The Housing Secretary, Anthony Cheung, said the government will hold the chief contractor of Kai Ching estate accountable for the latest discovery. Professor Cheung has also announced the set-up of a 10-member committee to thoroughly review the work of the authority.


updated: 17 July 2015

The Hong Kong Standard reported on 17 July 2015 that the plumbing contractor at the centre of the Lead (Pb) scandal also recently completed a hospital project in Hong Kong (link).

However, in the report the plumber stated he was not responsible for the material, indeed this is common practice for large projects, the Main Contractor will purchase all materials (thereby avoiding the admin, handling, and profit earned by the sub-contractors) and then engaging sub-contractor(s) to provide the labour only.

Same material likely used in hospital

Amy Nip

Friday, July 17, 2015


The plumber singled out by officials in connection with the lead-contaminated water at two estates says the same materials have been used elsewhere including St Paul’s Hospital. Lam Tak-sum, the self-claimed employee of Ho Biu Kee Construction Engineering responsible for plumbing works at Kai Ching and Kwai Luen estates, said he is “90 percent sure” the same materials have been used on other projects. St Paul’s Hospital confirmed Ho Biu Kee was responsible for installing pipes in Block B, which is under construction. Pipes and soldering samples will be collected for checks, a spokesman said, and the builder will test water samples for lead. Hospital services are not affected.

Hong Kong Plumbing and Sanitary Ware Trade Association head Wong Kwok-keung said they have been unable to reach Ho Biu Kee bosses. According to the company registry, Ho Man-piu is the biggest shareholder of the firm. His registered address is in Jiangmen city, Guangdong.


As a licensed plumber, Lam said his primary responsibility is to guide the company through procedures set by the government on water works. He filled in all the forms and provided certificates to the authorities. Water samples from the estates were tested and he was given certificates by the authorities to prove work was in accordance with regulations. “I have done what I should. It [the presence of lead in pipe soldering] indicated there may be loopholes in the existing procedures, or that there is a problem with the supplier,” he said. “I am not responsible for the purchase of materials.” He felt wronged to be named by government officials. “The court has yet to rule I am guilty, but they have already made the ruling,” he said. Ho Biu Kee management refused to assist him, he said.

updated: 21 July 2015


The Government has reported excessive lead (Pb) found in one sample from the seven additional estates undergoing testing, and that now Housing estates completed after 2011 will now be included in the testing plan, RTHK reports (link):

The government has expanded its water testing for lead contamination to cover all public housing estates built after 2011. Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung said it will involve a total of 26,000 units from 12 estates. Checks at some public estates earlier this month had shown excessive lead in some drinking water, leading to hundreds of people having blood tests over fears they have been poisoned.


Meanwhile, authorities have finished testing samples from seven estates completed in 2013 or afterwards. It found one of the 370 samples contained an excessive amount of lead. The sample comes from a unit from Wing Cheong Estate in Shum Shui Po.

Updated: 21 July 2015

In the Hong Kong Standard (below) the report provides more detail, the sample from Wing Cheong Estate in Shum Shui Po was a Housing Authority area, with 14 microgram/litre reported.

20150721 hong kong standard lead water contamination

Interestingly, from the health perspective this scandal has revealed that Asia’s World City has limited a very capacity to conduct blood tests, only 300 per week, so thousands of worried residents may have to wait many weeks.

update: 22 July 2015

RTHK reports today (22 July 2015) that the Hong Kong government has released information about the Kai Ching estate residents, forty (40) people, including 27 children, have been identified with excessive levels of Lead (Pb) in their blood (link).

Forty residents of the Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City have been found to have excessive amounts of lead in their blood.


The Health Secretary, Ko Wing-man, said 27 of them are children, and they will be taken to child assessment centres to gauge the impact on their health. The rest of them are lactating mothers.


They were among scores of people tested after lead was found to have contaminated some of the estate’s water supplies. Dr Ko stressed the lead levels were not very high, but said the Hospital Authority will adopt a range of follow-up actions.


These include expanding blood tests to include children who were under the age of six when they moved into either Kai Ching Estate, Phase 2 of Kwai Chung’s Kwai Luen Estate, or Wing Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po. Dr Ko said the Hospital Authority will also increase the number of blood taking sessions and will consider buying more blood testing equipment or sending samples to laboratories abroad.

Whether this was caused by water piping, the fittings, the solder, the pre-fab work in China, the faucets, the culprit, is still unclear. Perhap residents should offer (just offer) Kai Ching water to the Government officials, Erin Brockovich style.

Updated: 29 July 2015

Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate is the next Hong Kong housing project to be identified with Lead (Pb) solder [link]. Earlier RTHK reported that Lead (Pb) was stopped in 2005.

Lead found in water pipes of one more estate


Lead has been found in the soldering material binding joints in water pipes at Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate, officials said. This brings the total number of public housing estates involved in the tainted tap water scare to four.

Latest tests also show that 23 residents from Kai Ching Estate have higher-than-normal levels of blood in their blood. They include 17 children, four breastfeeding mothers, a pregnant woman and a teenager. That’s in addition to the 40 residents that were earlier found to have the same problem.


The issue of lead-contaminated water emerged in June, after the Democratic Party showed that tap water samples from Kai Ching Estate in Kai Tak contained amounts of lead that exceeded World Health Organisation standards.

Samples from Kwai Luen Estate in Kwai Chung and Wing Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po have also been tested and found to contain excessive levels of the heavy metal.

The government has continued investigating to see if more public estates are affected by the problem, and has arranged free blood tests for residents from the affected estates.

Updated: 3 August 2015

RTHK (link) the Lead (Pb) saga rumbles on, it now covers seven housing estates with excessive Lead (Pb) including:

  1. Kai Ching Estate, Kowloon City
  2. Kwai Luen Estate, Kwai Chung
  3. Wing Cheong Estate, Sham Shui Po
  4. Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate
  5. Tung Wui Estate, Wong Tai Sin
  6. Hung Hom Estate, Phase Two
  7. Shek Kip Mei Estate, Phase Two

Lead-tainted water found in three more [Hong Kong Housing] estates


The government has found that tap-water samples from three more public housing estates contain excessive levels of lead, taking the total number of affected estates to seven.

Twenty-five out of 183 tap water samples from Tung Wui Estate in Wong Tai Sin, Hung Hom Estate Phase Two, and Phase Two of Shek Kip Mei Estate contained excessive lead. The government also said the heavy metal was also found in some soldering material in the plumbing systems of the affected estates.


The Housing Secretary, Anthony Cheung, said contingency measures will be put in place to make sure residents have access to safe drinking water. He also said blood tests will also be conducted for high-risk individuals, such as children or pregnant women, who live in the affected estates.

Construction of the three estates was completed between 2011 and 2012. Cheung said the government is still awaiting results on tests for five more estates completed within the same period. He said the authorities will also collect water samples from all public estates built between 2005 and 2010, and hope to finish the testing process within two months.

Updated: 4 August 2015

RTHK website [link] reports the Apple Daily newspaper report – Lead (Pb) contamination 14 milligram/litre was discovered in a private residence ‘The Caldecott’ located in Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong in the management area, and now testing of the resident units will be carried out.

A luxury residential estate in Cheung Sha Wan, the Caldecott, has reportedly found excessive levels of lead in its tap water.


According to newspaper Apple Daily, the management company of the estate issued a notice last Thursday, saying a water sample collected from the kitchen of a function room last month was found to contain 19 milligrams of lead per litre — almost double the safety standard of 10 milligrams per litre set by the World Health Organisation.

The management company said that the owners’ corporation is planning to conduct water tests for all of its 44 units, the report said.

updated: 5 August 2015

Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) announced that a male living at the Wing Cheong Estate, Sham Shui Po has contracted Legionella (link) — the same estate where excessive Lead (Pb) was discovered. This is the second instance where excessive Lead (Pb) and Legionnaires’s Disease have been uncovered in the same estate.

CHP investigates two sporadic cases of Legionnaires’ disease


The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (August 4) investigating two sporadic cases of Legionnaires’ disease (LD) affecting two men aged 56 and 65.


The first patient is aged 56 with underlying illnesses. He presented with fever, cough, chills and rigors since July 27. He was admitted to United Christian Hospital (UCH) on August 3 for management. The clinical diagnosis is pneumonia and he is in stable condition. His urine sample tested positive for Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 antigen upon laboratory testing by UCH. Initial enquiries revealed that the patient had no recent travel history. He lives in Tsui Ping (South) Estate in Kwun Tong. His home contacts remain asymptomatic. Investigations are proceeding.


The second patient is aged 65 with underlying illnesses. He presented with fever, cough, shortness of breath and chest pain since August 1. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Caritas Medical Centre today. His clinical diagnosis is pneumonia with septic shock and he is in critical condition. His urine sample tested positive for Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 antigen upon laboratory testing by Princess Margaret Hospital. Initial enquiries revealed that the patient had no recent travel history. He lives in Wing Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po. Investigations are proceeding. “We are working with relevant department for epidemiological investigations into the possible source of infection of the individual patient. Relevant water samples and environment swabs will be collected from potential sources for laboratory testing. We have provided health advice on LD to the patient and his family,” a spokesman for the CHP said. “As Legionella bacteria can be widely found in the environment, investigations are ongoing,” the spokesman remarked.


These are the 27th and the 28th LD cases reported to the CHP this year. In 2014 and 2013, 41 and 28 cases were recorded respectively. The public may visit the CHP’s LD page (www.chp.gov.hk/en/content/9/24/2117.html) for more information and corresponding preventive advice.

Ends/Tuesday, August 4, 2015

updated: 10 August 2015

Adding to the watergate scandal in Hong Kong, the water quality scare widens with Nickel (Ni) reported by SCMP on 8 August 2015. (link). Interesting that in these cases the Housing Department had conducted a renovation, were the materials used, and fittings WSD approved?

Nickel found in Hong Kong housing estate’s tap water

Four water samples taken from flats in phases one and two of Wah Fu Estate in Pok Fu Lam contained the heavy metal nickel, a skin irritant, at well above the World Health Organisation standard, the Democratic Party said yesterday. 


Although the 20 samples taken were all clear of lead and cadmium, the heavy metals found in water samples from several local estates, the party said four had a nickel content above the WHO guidelines of 70 micrograms per litre of water. In the worst case, it was more than three times that level. The party said it suspected the contamination at the four flats developed after refurbishment by the Housing Department, and it was now demanding answers from the department.


Nickel may contaminate water through leaching from metals that were in contact with that water, or its presence in groundwater, according to a World Health Organisation report. It said nickel doses in people who developed symptoms ranged from 7 to 35 milligrams per kg of body weight, causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, and shortness of breath. The most common effect of excessive nickel in the body is allergic contact dermatitis, a skin irritation, according to the WHO.  It was not the first time nickel was detected in tap water samples. The party had previously detected excessive nickel in other public housing estates, including Tai Po’s Kwong Fuk Estate.


But the Kwong Fuk result was disputed by Tai Po district councillor Peggy Wong Pik-kiu, from the government-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who criticised its rival for not retesting the water. She said she had visited the home in question with a plumber and found the filter installed at the water tap was to blame, as it was too dirty and may have affected the testing.


So far, tainted water has been discovered at a total of seven public housing estates in a health scare that has gripped the city all summer. Officials have yet to locate the source of the lead contamination.


SCMP report

Updated: 14 August 2015

The so called Hong Kong watergate scandal continues to snare more people with RTHK reporting that the Hong Kong Government has reported that two more Hong Kong housing estates (link) also have Lead (Pb) contamination.

Two more housing estates found with lead-water


The government has confirmed that two more public housing estates in Kowloon have higher-than-acceptable levels of lead in their water supplies, bringing the total number of affected estates to ten.


Nineteen out of 135 tap water samples from phase two and four of Un Chau Estate in Cheung Sha Wan, and 13 out of 90 samples from Choi Fook Estate in Kowloon Bay were found to contain more lead than the World Health Organisation’s safety standard. One sample from Un Chau Estate had 14 times the WHO’s safety margin. However, Dr Regina Ching from the Centre for Health Protection said although the administration is concerned about the high levels of lead found, the actual health impact to residents depends on how much water they have consumed.


The government said follow-up measures will be adopted to make sure residents in the affected estates have access to safe drinking water. Meanwhile, the latest batch of government blood tests on affected residents have found slightly-higher-than-normal lead levels in ten children aged under six. The youngest victim is a one-year-old toddler.

updated: 22 August 2015

First Hong Kong public housing, now schools, RTHK reported (link) 21 August 2015, that a school had arranged water quality testing itself, and found Lead (Pb) contamination above the recommended WHO limit. Schools should have been a high priority because Lead (pb) can cause greater damage to infants and children.

Lead found in school’s tap water


A primary school in Sham Shiu Po has been found to have an excessive level of lead in its tap water. The SKH St. Thomas’ Primary School said it found the lead after conducting its own tests on water taken from one of its classrooms.


The sample was found to contain 43.2 milligrams of lead per litre of water which is three more than the World Health Organization’s safety standard. The school said it has informed the Education Bureau of the result. It also said it will implement mitigating measures, such as installing filters.


A spokesman for the bureau said it will maintain close contact with the school. He added the bureau was working with the Centre for Health Protection to compile safety guidelines on drinking water for schools.


The Professional Teachers’ Union said it has written to the Secretary for Education, Eddie Ng, criticising his bureau for not doing anything to ensure that tap water in schools was safe. The president of the union, Fung Wai-wah, said the government should conduct territory-wide water tests at all schools. He said priority should be given to schools in public housing estates which were at “high risk” because excessive lead has been found in the tap water at some of them.


When reporters later asked Ng whether the government would test tap water in schools, he did not give a direct answer. He only said special task forces have already been set up to deal with the lead contamination crisis

updated: 25 August 2015

Further guidance (http://www.wsd.gov.hk/filemanager/article/en/upload/355/cir0415.pdf) published by WSD today (25 August 2015) the letter states that all copper pipe soldering work requires the permission of WSD under Waterworks ordinance 14 and 15.


updated: 27 August 2015

Thanks to Charles and Cleantuesday.asia  for the link to this piece.

updated: 27 August 2015

Another Hong Kong School has come clean and published Water quality findings, St Francis of Assisi’s Caritas School was reported on 25 August in the unlinkable South China Morning Post with very high levels of Lead (pb), here is their report below.

The report also mentions that low levels, within accepted limits for Lead (Pb), were discovered in five (5) samples fitted with distillers (…no idea what that means either)

Emergency measures at Hong Kong primary school after water fountain recorded 21 times safe limit of lead


The lead-in-water scare has spread to another primary school where a sample was found to contain levels of the heavy metal more than 21 times over the safety limit. St Francis of Assisi’s Caritas School on Wai Chi Street, Shek Kip Mei, confirmed that a sample taken from a water fountain in the playground contained 220 micrograms of lead per litre, more than 21 times the World Health Organisation’s safety level of 10 mg/l.


Another two samples taken from a canteen contained 25 and 26 mg/l. School head Yiu Fan said she was surprised by the test results and noted that the water fountain was equipped with a filter, which was inspected in May. Two water samples from the general office and a staff room were satisfactory. The school has reported the findings to the Education Bureau and will adopt emergency measures. An inter-departmental meeting on the contamination scare on campuses has been scheduled by the government for today. On August 21, one of six samples taken from St Thomas’ Primary School on Pratas Street, Sham Shui Po, contained 43.2 mg/l of lead, more than four times the WHO’s safety level. The contaminated sample had been collected earlier this month from a tap for washing hands in a first-floor classroom at the campus, which was completed in 2011. Five other samples – in which lead levels were found to be lower than 5mcg/l and within safety limits – were collected from drinking machines located in the staff room, the school office’s pantry, the school hall, the sports ground and the covered playground. The machines were installed with distillers.

updated: 27 August 2015 17:37

RTHK reports today (27 August 2015) that another housing estate has Lead (Pb) contamination Ching Ho Estate in Sheung Shui had ten (10) water samples exceeding WHO standard for Lead (Pb) content.

Another public housing estate has been found to have lead-contaminated drinking water. Ten samples taken from Ching Ho Estate in Sheung Shui contained more than 10 micrograms of lead per litre – above the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.  Four more children were also found with excessive lead levels in their blood. Meanwhile, the Education Bureau has advised schools built in 2005 or after to install filters on their taps as soon as possible. That was despite calls for the government to test the tap water at all public schools in Hong Kong.

Housing Estates with water quality having an excessive Lead (Pb) content in Hong Kong include:

  1. Kai Ching Estate, Kowloon City
  2. Kwai Luen Estate, Kwai Chung
  3. Wing Cheong Estate, Sham Shui Po
  4. Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate
  5. Tung Wui Estate, Wong Tai Sin
  6. Hung Hom Estate, Phase Two
  7. Shek Kip Mei Estate, Phase Two
  8. ???
  9. Un Chau Estate, Cheung Sha Wan
  10. Choi Fook Estate, Kowloon Bay
  11. Ching Ho Estate, Sheung Shui

Noteworthy also that Education Bureau has advised schools constructed after 2005 to install water filters, although no testing has been conducted. It seems that Government is resigned to discovering Lead (Pb) if tested so has recommended filters. It’s critical for parents since children are highest risk group for Lead (Pb) poisoning due to its impact on development.

RTHK reports that the seventeen kindergartens operated by the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese has decided to install water filters for drinking and cooking purposes:

Diocese to install filters in kindergartens
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong says it will install water filters at all of its 17 kindergartens after excessive lead was found at two primary schools. The group hopes the installation will be completed by September 1. A member of the Central Management Committee for Diocesan Schools, Liu Mo-yin, said filters will be installed in areas of the schools from where water is used for drinking or cooking purposes. If the installation cannot be completed on schedule, they will consider using bottled water until the filters were installed. Liu said the Diocese will wait for the outcome of a government inter-departmental meeting before deciding what to do at its subsidised primary and secondary schools. As for the three private primary schools it runs, Liu said the Diocese will leave it to the schools to decide their course of action.

Updated: 28 August 2015

Lead (Pb) found in two more schools, and heavy metal found at the government-aided Heep Woh Primary School in Cheung Sha Wan RTHK reports (link) today.

Two more schools have found excessive lead in their drinking water after they conducted tests on their own. The government-aided Heep Woh Primary School in Cheung Sha Wan found the heavy metal in the tap water used by staff members, but not in the drinking fountains for students.

The Diocesan Boys’ School in Mong Kok, a directly-subsidised secondary school, found lead in tap water samples taken from two of its buildings. Both schools said they would install filters or replace the old ones.

The discoveries came a day after the government said it would install filters for all aided and subsidised schools built in or after 2005.


unintended consequences

We are all hindered by unintended consequences, Sweden one might argue a global leader for harvesting leftover heat was hamstrung by the law which prevented other suppliers accessing the district heating grid, but that changed when a law was passed last year that allows outside suppliers to deliver heat through the district heating grid. Now the town of Kiruna in northern Sweden can use waste heat from their local industry to cheaply heat homes, a neat solution when the mercury hits -30 Deg C in winter. Details are scarce in the Guardian article [1] however using waste heat whether from industry or power generation is cost-effective when the distance (where increasing distance equates causing increasing heat loss) between the source and end-user is not great.

Less commonly known is that waste heat can be used in the tropics to drive air conditioning, necessary in large parts of Asia. Low grade heat energy is often dumped into rivers or the sea, instead it can be used to change the concentration of liquid salt, e.g. lithium bromide, creating cold water for comfort cooling.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/01/leftover-industrial-heat-to-warm-swedens-chilly-northern-city

Hong Kong Baptist Hospital Legionella Discovered April 2015

Legionella Risk assessment Hong Kong

A 60 year male patient attending Hong Kong Baptist Hospital (HKBH) contracted a nosocomial infection, the potentially fatal Legionnaires Disease (LD). After the patient was diagnosed, EMSD sampled from both his home and the hospital. His home was negative, but the hospital water supply tested positive, four samples with Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp1) with 0.3 to 2.3 colony-forming units per millilitre (cfu/ml) reported. {1}.

Remember the infectious dose for LD is still unknown, but could be as little as 1 cfu based on a case where Legionella was contracted 6 km away from the source.

The HKBH fresh (potable) water tank was reported negative for Lp1. Since the fresh water tank in an ‘occupied’ hospital would typically have a high turnover, a negative result would be expected because there is little risk of stagnant water. Therefore, in this case the root cause must be within the water distribution piping.

Interestedly, three environment swabs, collected from HKBH, also tested positive for Lp1, but as usual no details were reported. We can only speculate these could be swabs from surfaces in and around the shower and toilets areas.

Approximately month after first exposure, around 4 April 2015, it is reported that the EMSD visited the site today, presumably the date of the government press release 5 May 2015 {1} , recommending I quote ‘….disinfection of the relevant water system.’ amongst other measures. The number of patients who may have been exposed to the risk of contracting Legionella during that month is unknown, and attempting to disinfect the water system in a working hospital full of patients will be a challenge. In the report there is no mention of any earlier risk assessment.

This case is particularly troubling because Legionnaires Disease (LD) was contracted in the hospital environment, and it seems from the report that approx. one month lapsed between infection and disinfection.

[1] http://www.chp.gov.hk/en/view_content/39502.html

New York City, USA has banned styrofoam


The administration of New York City, USA has provided environmental leadership banning single use Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) also known as Styrofoam, including loose fill   ‘peanuts’ used for packing, beginning on 1 July 2015, but a concession, a six month grace period, will be granted so the law and fines will be effective from 1 January 2016.

It will save about 30,000 tonnes, normally sent to landfill, which is a staggering saving. Here is the link: http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/016-15/de-blasio-administration-bans-single-use-styrofoam-products-new-york-city-beginning-july-1-2015

Will Hong Kong follow the NYC lead?

It didnt rain

Applicants for BEAM NB certification often claim that a water discharge licence is not necessary because it didn’t rain those months.

Here is a typical construction site, we have had no rain but it is clearly flooded.

Building Water Quality Issues

hong kong quality water

Considering the water quality delivered to the tap, it is no wonder that Hong Kong people prefer bottled water, and boil water everyday.

Whilst the quality of our drinking water provided by our water utility (WSD) may reach world class standards, what comes out of the tap is a different matter. In my office the water (see photo above) is very poor indeed, would you drink it? And boiling all that water demands a lot energy, we are looking at approx. 9.28 MW everyday just to boil water. Improved plumbing systems, piping, tanks, coupled with mandatory maintenance are required to rebuild the confidence to use the potable water provided.

Typically one main water storage water tank is provided in high rise buildings with thousands of residents. The building owner or operator may opt for a voluntary scheme, operated by WSD, known as the Quality Water Recognition Scheme for Buildings (QWRSB). Of course, that requires interrupting the occupants water service to conduct the necessary maintenance and tank cleansing work.

BEAM Interiors Assessment Fee waived for NGO’s

Good news for NGO’s, the BEAM Plus Interiors assessment fee can be waived! The special offer is valid for a limited time (until 31 Dec. 2014) for upto five NGO’s projects, first-come-first-served, dont delay! gb_ideas


BEAM Plus Interiors, known locally as BI is the local rating tool for non-domestic, occupied spaces, specifically designed for office and retail premises, hotel rooms and function rooms, restaurants, and educational facilities. The tool has best practice criteria, and upto 100 points can be awarded for compliance.

Points & Awards

BI is a points based system, achieving the specific goals set out in the BI Manual earns more points, it is that easy. Earn 75 points to achieve the top award Platinum!

Free Manual

The BI manual is FREE, visit the BSL website to download your own copy today!


The BEAM BI manual is sub-divided into different sections known as categories for convenience,  grouping credits with a common theme together, the categories include:

  1. Green Building Attributes (GBA)
  2. Management (MAN)
  3. Materials Aspects (MA)
  4. Energy Use (EU)
  5. Water Use (WU)
  6. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
  7. Innovations (IV)


Built on local consensus, indeed a lot has changed since the first BI draft, thanks to the contributions of the local community. The draft BI was examined and scrutinised  by 100+ Hong Kong building Professionals from the local institutions, through two workshops, and then followed with a three month long PUBLIC consultation period (April 2013-July 2013). Indeed the process is really one of built-in continuous refinement, the BI manual has a page designed to submit your comments.


For projects upto 999 sqm (internal floor area) Applicants should fulfil the following three conditions which are simultaneously met:

(a) the building owner is a charitable organisation/Non-government organisations/Non-profit organisations; (b) the building owner does not receive other sources of fund to cover the expense of that assessment fee; and (c) the building is not built for generating commercial income;

Meanwhile, applicants should demonstrate the following criteria:

  1. Help deliver and project a symbolic image and word of mouth of BI.

  2. Demonstrate their strong commitment in pursuing green.

  3. Have good and established reputation in the market.

  4. Go in line with BSL’s mission and vision.

  5. Wish to pursue green but suffering and limited to a stringent budget.

  6. The project is of high profile capable of attracting the attention of the public

visit www.beamsociety.org.hk for more information

In the event of any dispute, the decision of BSL is final. Don’t delay, contact the BEAM office directly to obtain the application form, apply for BI Fee waiver!