Ever sensitive to water shortages, the island city state of Singapore has fined a contractor for puncturing a water main during road widening work, spilling nearly half a million litres of drinking water.
The S$56,500 fine against Feng Ming Construction – about $41,000 – announced yesterday is the highest fine ever imposed by the State Courts for water main damage.Â
Under the Public Utilities Act, the penalty for damaging a water main or connecting pipe with a diameter of 300mm or more is a fine of up to S$200,000 or imprisonment for up to three years, or both.
"The damage led to substantial loss of approximately 468,000 litres of potable water, enough to fill about one-fifth of an Olympic-sized swimming pool," said Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB), the statutory body that brought the action.Â
"As a result of the incident, water supply to 38 households in the vicinity was disrupted for about 9.5 hours," PUB added.
On 20 September 2019, Feng Ming Construction was carrying out sheet piling works at Dunearn Road as part of the road widening project in the Bukit Timah area.Â
A 500mm diameter water main at a depth of 2.5 metres under the road surface was punctured when its piling machine drove a steel sheet pile into the ground.Â
Alerted, PUB discovered a gash, about 100mm by 30mm in size, in the water main. PUB deployed a water wagon and provided water bags to the affected households.Â
Investigations revealed that Feng Ming Construction was aware of the existence of an underground water main as indicated in the PUB water service plan.Â
But the contractor had failed to carry out sufficient trial trenching evaluation to physically ascertain the exact location and alignment of the water main.Â
In addition, Feng Ming Construction began sheet piling works without submitting a plan for PUB’s approval.Â
Feng Ming was convicted of both charges on 25 August this year. Its fine includes S$1,500 for the unauthorised sheet piling works.Â
This is the second time that Feng Ming Construction was convicted for damaging a large water main. The company was fined S$40,000 for damaging a 300mm diameter water main at Geylang Lorong 1 in October 2013.
"PUB takes a serious view against any acts of water wastage, which could be prevented if due diligence had been exercised by the contractor," PUB said.
Photograph: PUB discovered a 100mm by 30mm gash in the water main (PUB)