Although Hong Kong’s water currently meets local standards of water safety, there is still widespread concern over water quality. There are many factors that can compromise municipal water safety which include sourcing and pipe quality. When it comes to pipe quality, PE-Xa is the most suitable piping solution. Learn why here.
In 2015, potable water in Hong Kong was tested in the Kai Ching Estate, a large public housing structure in Kowloon City. Illegal soldering of water pipe joints was found to be the cause. Subsequent water testing revealed high levels of lead and other heavy metals that exceeded World Health Organization thresholds.
Water quality is crucial to public health and safety. Children are especially susceptible to its effects. In the wake of the 2015 water quality tests and public outcry, a legislative effort led to big changes in Hong Kong’s infrastructure.
Hong Kong’s Water Quality and Health Issues
The Hong Kong government states that it has “one of the safest water supplies in the world.” That being said, freshwater in the area is limited. Hong Kong has to rely on importing untreated “raw water” from its neighbouring Guangdong province on the Chinese Mainland. The quality of this water meets the national standard of the “Environmental Quality Standards for Surface Water, GB 3838-2002”, and it also complies with the World Health Organization’s standards for drinking water.
Upon arrival in Hong Kong, the imported water is then treated in the 21 treatment centres within its borders. The raw water is mixed with chemicals that assist in the clarifying process. This treatment method resembles similar ones conducted in densely-populated urban centres all over the world.
Hong Kong is able to adequately manage the treatment of the imported water, but what about the piping systems in its commercial buildings and residences?
Before 1995, many buildings were outfitted with unlined galvanized steel pipes. These types of pipes are now banned in Hong Kong because they corrode and rust over time. Those buildings and homes still outfitted with unlined galvanized pipes should be entirely replaced. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. There are still a significant number of residences and commercial sites that have not made the required changes to the approved pipe materials.
Contaminated water caused by rusted pipes and lead solder currently threatens the health of many in Hong Kong. For families, safety is a legitimate, persistent concern. Children, as stated before, can suffer acutely from lead exposure. Long term exposure leads to high blood pressure and kidney damage.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include weight loss, learning difficulties and developmental delay. Toxicity in older adults, even at low levels, has the potential to cause harm. Lead absorbed and housed in soft tissues and bone may re-enter the bloodstream resulting in renal and cognitive impairment years after initial exposure.
Changing over to a safer, more versatile piping system is of the highest priority.
The Alternatives to Unlined Galvanized Steel Pipes
Hong Kong’s government suggests that all unlined galvanized steel pipes be replaced with polyethene pipes, copper pipes, stainless steel pipes or lined galvanized steel pipes. These days, the most popular piping systems are usually polyethene and copper. Copper, however, requires more fittings and is more prone to leakage and corrosion…
The same can’t be said for polyethene piping systems such as Uponor’s PE-Xa solution.
PE-Xa – A Water Safety Solution
Water quality is not just a matter of sourcing and treatment. In the case of the Kai Ching Estate lead contamination discovery and the investigation it led to, the main issue was pipe quality. Leaching tests done by a task force found two critical problems, “Leaded solder joints were the cause of excess lead in drinking water;” and “Copper alloy fittings also leached lead but did not result in excess lead in drinking water.” The Task Force also found excessive nickel from some of the kitchen taps in a large rental housing structure.
The full task force report can be found here.
Therefore, the water quality of many residents could be improved through the adoption of Uponor’s PE-Xa system.
PE-Xa is also known as cross-linked polyethene. As a versatile piping solution, contractors use PE-Xa for radiant heating, cooling, plumbing, pre-insulated pipes and even fire sprinkler systems. PE-Xa is manufactured using the Engel Method – a manufacturing process that produces the strongest, most uniform product.
Rigid metal systems like copper have nothing on PE-Xa pipes. PE-Xa pipes are more flexible, more sustainable and more durable. In the case of fitting a new building with plumbing or retrofitting an existing structure, it’s the best solution.
Hygienic Solutions for Drinking Water Systems in Hong Kong
The PE-Xa system from Uponor is an ideal solution for sanitary drinking water in Hong Kong. Our Hygiene Logic has become part of our mission in providing clean, safe water management systems. This innovative approach has led to the development of technologies that improve water delivery systems and monitor water quality.
The quality of water lays in the variety of our products. Unlike metallic materials, strong cross-linked polyethene won’t allow for harmful metals to seep into water supplies. PE-Xa pipes do not corrode or suffer from pinhole leaks typically found in copper pipe systems. Copper pipes corrode from the inside, so you only find out about the leak when it’s already too late.
PE-Xa do not have these problems at all, and fewer connections also mean fewer chances of breaks in the line. Loop installation, another Uponor recommendation, means no stagnation, regular exchange of water, and low water content.
All of this lays the foundation for a highly advanced, holistic piping system that places the most importance on health and safety, and provides a hygienically flawless supply of water to building inhabitants now and into the future.