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Current Progress of Follow-up Work on Various Recommendations of Commission of Inquiry into Excess L

The current progress of follow-up work on various recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Excess Lead Found in Drinking Water (CoI) by the Development Bureau (DEVB) and the Water Supplies Department (WSD) is as follows:

Establishment of International Expert Panel on Drinking Water Safety

With the support of the CoI, DEVB established the International Expert Panel on Drinking Water Safety (IEP) on 1 June 2016, comprising five members viz. three overseas experts from Australia, Canada and United Kingdom and two local experts, to provide expert advice on matters relating to drinking water safety.

With reference to overseas practices and advice from the IEP, the Government has formulated and launched the Action Plan for Enhancing Drinking Water Safety in Hong Kong on 21 September 2017 with a view to safeguarding the drinking water quality in Hong Kong. The IEP was disbanded in May 2018 after completion of its work.

Review of existing Legislative Framework and Regulatory Regime and Setting up of an Independent Body to overlook the performance of WSD and water quality in Hong Kong generally

In response to the recommendations of the CoI that the Government should, at the policy level, review the adequacy of the existing legislative framework and regulatory regime in safeguarding the safety and quality of drinking water in Hong Kong, and set up an independent body to overlook the performance of WSD and drinking water quality in Hong Kong generally, DEVB has engaged consultants to study the water safety regime of leading jurisdictions as well as to explore a suitable control framework for Hong Kong. To take a step forward, DEVB is currently conducting a detailed study on how a suitable drinking water safety regulatory regime would be developed for Hong Kong.

DEVB has also set up the Drinking Water Safety Advisory Committee (DWSAC) in January 2018 comprising members from academic and experts of relevant sectors to give impartial advice to the DEVB on various drinking water safety issues. Besides, a dedicated team will be set up under DEVB to monitor the performance of WSD over the drinking water safety.

Formulation of Drinking Water Standards and Sampling Protocols for Water Quality Monitoring for Hong Kong

In regard to the recommendations on the formulation of drinking water standards and sampling protocols for water quality monitoring for Hong Kong, WSD has engaged an expert consultant from the United Kingdom to review international practice and methodology for formulating drinking water standards. Review for the World Health Organization (WHO) metal parameters has in priority been completed. Based on the consultants’ findings, the IEP agreed that WHO Guideline Values /Provisional Guideline Values be adopted as drinking water standards for WHO metal parameters and existing water quality monitoring programme of WSD be enhanced to collect water samples from consumers’ taps for testing six metals that could be present in the plumbing system and the Enhanced Water Quality Monitoring Programme (Enhanced Programme) has commenced at the end of December 2017. The standards for these parameters should be reviewed when three to five years’ data from the Enhanced Programme are available. The IEP further advised that a two-tier water sampling protocol (viz. Random Day Time (RDT) involving the testing of stagnant water, followed by 30-Minute Stagnant (30MS) water sampling if RDT test result fails) be adopted as the sampling protocol for taking water samples for testing six metal parameters. In regard to the non-metal parameters, pending completion of the corresponding review, the IEP has recommended that the WHO values be adopted as drinking water standards for compliance monitoring purpose.

Establishment and Implementation of Water Safety Plan for Hong Kong in general and Water Safety Plans specifically for other developments

The CoI recommends that WSD should establish and implement a Water Safety Plan (WSP) for Hong Kong in general, and WSPs specifically for other developments in Hong Kong. In response to the recommendations and with reference to the advice of an Australian expert consultant, WSD has enhanced its WSP and implemented since July 2017 a Drinking Water Quality Management System incorporating the enhanced WSP. A set of guidelines and templates for general buildings (e.g. residential/commercial buildings) and specific buildings (e.g. schools and residential care homes for the elderly) have also been developed to assist property owners and management agents in establishing and implementing WSP for their buildings. The WHO welcomed WSD’s action in devising these guidelines and templates, which are considered conducive to promoting the implementation of the WSP for buildings. The guidelines and templates have been uploaded to a website jointly managed by the WHO and the International Water Association for international reference. Training courses have been arranged and conducted for plumbing practitioners and consultants with a view to building up and enhancing the industry capacity in developing WSPs. Public forums, briefings and education talks on WSP have been conducted for publicising WSP for buildings in Hong Kong. WSD has also set up a dedicated hotline and helpdesk to provide assistance and advice to facilitate the development of WSP for buildings. In addition, WSD has launched the new Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings – Fresh Water (Management System) to replace the Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings – Fresh Water (Plus) in November 2017 in order to encourage property owners and management agents to develop and implement WSP for Buildings to further safeguard the drinking water quality in their buildings.

Setting out Latest Approved Pipes and Fittings and their Standards

The CoI recommends that WSD should set out clearly, in the legislation or appropriate medium, the latest approved pipes and fittings as well as the latest standards for all plumbing materials and components to be used in the construction of inside service. As a matter of fact, WSD has uploaded to WSD’s website lists of the latest approved pipes and fittings and will update the lists from time to time. DEVB/WSD has also amended the Waterworks Regulations (Cap. 102A) via the Waterworks (Amendment) Regulation 2017 and Waterworks (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulation 2017 (with effect from 14 July 2017 and 8 December 2017 respectively) to make clear and update the applicable standards for plumbing materials and components to be used in the construction of inside services.

Defining the Roles, Involvements and Responsibilities of Relevant Parties Involved in the Design, Construction and Maintenance of Inside Service via Legislative Review

The CoI recommends that WSD should define the duties of licensed plumbers under the Waterworks Ordinance (Cap. 102), taking into account relevant provisions of the Construction Workers Registration Ordinance (Cap. 583) (CWRO) which allow skilled workers to perform plumbing installations. In this regard, DEVB/WSD had submitted the Waterworks (Amendment) Bill 2017 to the Legislative Council for deliberation in April 2017. The Bill was subsequently passed and has come into effect on 15 February 2018 as the Waterworks (Amendment) Ordinance 2018. The Ordinance has, amongst others, set out clearly the persons designated for carrying out plumbing works (including licensed plumbers and plumbing workers) and their respective roles and responsibilities.

The CoI also recommends that WSD should define the roles, involvements and responsibilities of other parties, who are in practice involved in the design, construction and maintenance of inside service; review the existing arrangement where an individual licensed plumber can be responsible for plumbing installations of any scale at any given time; and consider the need and feasibility to include other professionals and specialised contractors in the design and construction of inside service. For this, WSD has set forth on a holistic review of the Waterworks Ordinance and Waterworks Regulations in regard to, inter alia, the roles, involvements and responsibilities of relevant parties responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the inside services, including possible introduction of a registration regime for plumbing contractors in the legislation. WSD has sought views and suggestions from stakeholders including representatives from developer, contractor, licensed plumber, material supplier and professional bodies in formulating the concerned legislative proposals and would consult the public in due course. Prior to the completion of legislative review, WSD and Construction Industry Council jointly issued the “Good Practice Guide on Plumbing Works” in March 2017, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders in inside services. In regard to the surveillance and inspection of inside services, WSD has launched a pilot scheme of risk-based random inspection of plumbing works during construction stage of new plumbing installations with effect from 1 April 2017. The risk factors to be considered include the scale and nature of the projects, as well as the workload, past performance, experience and Continuing Professional Development credits of the licensed plumbers engaged, etc. For more details, please visit Enhancement of Control of Inside Services’ Construction and Installation in this website.

Strengthening the Management and Training of Licensed Plumbers

In regard to the recommendations of the CoI on strengthening the management and training of licensed plumbers, the training courses provided by the Vocational Training Council and the Construction Industry Council for licensed plumbers and plumbing workers have covered the potential causes and hazards of drinking water contaminations and the associated precautionary measures since September 2016, so as to enhance their awareness on drinking water safety. WSD has conducted a manpower study and confirmed adequate manpower to meet demand for licensed plumbers in the coming years whilst effort will continue to attract more people to join the plumbing trade to meet future workload. In regard to the continuous professional education for licensed plumbers, WSD also launched the Voluntary Continuing Professional Development Scheme for licensed plumbers in October 2016 jointly with the plumbing industry stakeholders. From October 2016 to August 2018, 11 organizations were accredited as CPD programmes/activities providers and 147 CPD programmes/courses have been accredited by WSD. Around 52% of LPs active in the industry have attended with some of them attending more than one programme/course. WSD will review the competency and training criteria and requirements for renewal of licences for LPs under the holistic legislative review.

August 2018