Act of mischief

Question – What would you do if your condominium runs dry? Food for thought as this condominium grapples with an odd one-off situation.

From The Straits Times
August 24, 2011 (Wednesday)

Act of mischief? The day taps ran dry at condo

Bv Poon Chian Hui

WHEN the taps suddenly ran dry at several apartments in an upmarket condominium, residents
found themselves at the centre of a mystery.

Was it ordinary wear and tear in the pipes, or had somebody been tampering with them?

The speculation began after the management of Rafflesia Condominium in Bishan pinned up a cryptic notice saying a valve had been damaged by "a mischief act".

However, The Straits Times understands that the cause of the problem remains inconclusive, and it could be due simply to the gate valve – which controls the water flow in pipes – wearing out.

Residents of a dozen apartments apparently found themselves without water in the small hours of Aug 15. Their taps were running again by the evening.

A notice put up by the management on Monday read: "Upon our investigation, we found that there was a damaged gate valve on level 15 of Tower I and it is caused by a mischief act. We have recently replaced the damaged gate valve."

Although the notice was addressed to all residents of the tower, it specifically listed a dozen apartments on the t4th and l5th floors, which appear to be the ones affected. It also asked residents for any information that could help the management carry out its investigations. The Straits Times understands that no police report has been lodged.

Resident Marc Grange, 31, said he had to go to work without his usual shower after the supply to his apartment was disrupted. Instead, he washed his face, shaved and brushed his teeth using a bottle of water kept in the fridge. His wife used the shower at the gym.

Despite the inconvenience, Mr Grange, who works for an electronics company, said he is not too concerned. "These things happen," he said. "It's not something that the condominium could be directly responsible for causing."

He said there was a similar disruption a month or two back, when residents across the whole block woke to find they had no water. The problem was fixed shortly afterwards.

When the Straits Times called the condominium's management yesterday, it declined to elaborate on what it meant by a "mischief act".

It said Aug 15's disruption was a "one-off incident", and that immediate action was taken after residents raised the issue. The management added that contractors had replaced the valve in half an hour, after identifying the source of the problem.

It could not be established whether the valve was in an area where access is restricted. However, general contractor C.C. Wong, who is familiar with plumbing systems in buildings, said gate valves are usually located in areas to which the public has access.

He said the valves do not normally require regular maintenance as it is "very, very difficult" for faults to develop. Their key purpose is to temporarily stop the flow of water, for example when a section of pipe needs to be replaced.

Mr Wong added that blockages may develop due to a build-up of sediment from the water tank, which requires regular maintenance. However, this rarely happens. For now, it appears that the mystery of the vanishing water remains unsolved.

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