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Over 70% of public housing residents worried about the spread of COVID-19 via sewage pipes


In order to follow-up the problem of leakage of pipes in public housing estates last December, we conducted a survey in January and February this year to gauge the actual situation and views of households in public housing estates. A total of 2,548 tenants in Kowloon East were successfully interviewed and the main findings of the survey are:

  1. Over 70% of respondents were "worried" or "very worried" that drainage might become a channel for virus transmission.

  2. Over 40% of respondents reported that the drainage pipes in their homes emitted a "foul odour" either frequently (11.1%) or occasionally (29.6%), indicating that the malfunction of "air traps" of these drainage pipes leads to a potential risk of spreading the virus.

  3. As most respondents (75.3%) found themselves lack basic knowledge of drainage maintenance, they would seek assistance from the Housing Department (HD). However, the HD's performance in following up the problem was evaluated as only "fair", and even 15.5% and 7.6% of the respondents felt either "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" respectively.

  4. Over 40% of the respondents were either "dissatisfied" (29.9%) or "very dissatisfied" (11.9%) to HA taking 18 months to complete drainage inspections. The vast majority (77.0%) of respondents urged the government to speed up the inspection process.

In view of the survey findings, we suggest that the HA and the government should:

  1. Increase resources and manpower to advance the completion of the "Drain Inspection Programme" within the first half of 2021, in which inspection of high-risk buildings should be completed within the first quarter of 2021. The authorities should repair defective drainage pipes and leaking pipes to reach safety standard as soon as possible.

  2. Implement improvements to the design of the drainage system and relocate indoor drains to outdoor areas to reduce potential hygiene risks.

  3. Seek assistance from government regulatory departments and professional bodies in formulating working guidelines and technical workmanship requirements for routine drainage maintenance to enhance the standard of maintenance services; strengthen the monitoring of works quality and contractors' performance to enhance the transparency of maintenance works.

  4. Set up a cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary drainage advisory body to formulate drainage and pipe safety plans with expert advice. Create a high-level inter-departmental task force to proactively deal with the problem of germs and infections spreading through the drainage system.

  5. Set up a "performance pledge" for dealing with drainage problems that requires frontline staff and responsible contractors to respond to residents' complaints within a reasonable time limit and to properly complete the required repairs.

  6. Cooperate with local research companies to install air purification facilities at the rooftop drainage outfalls of public housing estates in order to prevent viruses from passing through such drainage outfalls and back to the upper floors or into exterior units under the ”wake effect”.


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