Flat owner shocked by HK$30,000 water bill

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am

The Water Supplies Department yesterday vowed to pursue a woman for an unpaid water bill after it was reduced from HK$30,000 to HK$500.

Ms Ng has paid an average water bill of HK$150 since moving to her flat in Richland Gardens in Kowloon Bay eight years ago, and was shocked when she got a HK$30,000 water bill for the period of April to August last year.

She immediately sent several letters of complaint to the department but received no answer. She then sent an e-mail to its chief executive on March 6 and a day later was informed her bill had been reduced to HK$500.

According to the department, the large bill sprang from a leak in a water pipe running from the water metre to her flat, which is the responsibility of the owner or tenant under the Waterworks Ordinance.

Noticing the abnormally large bill last September, an officer was sent to inspect the meter.

During his visit, Ms Ng informed the officer there had been a small 'drip' that had been repaired by a contractor. The officer also noted new pipes.

It is this leak that the department believes is responsible for the loss of 3,000 cubic metres of water, or enough to fill 11/2 Olympic-size swimming pools.

But the department's assistant director, Chin Chu-sum, said they decided treat Ms Ng's case with leniency. 'Taking into account the fact she had not intentionally neglected a leaking pipe, and that there was a drain in the meter room making it difficult to check for leaking pipes, the leakage committee of the department decided Ms Ng need not pay for the water,' he said.

'However, we still feel Ms Ng should take some of the responsibility, so we charged her HK$500, which accounts for her usual consumption of HK$150 plus two times her normal consumption for the leaking pipe.'

But Ms Ng is adamant she will not pay the bill.

'If it really was my fault then why did they reduce the bill to HK$500? If it wasn't my fault, why do I still have to pay such a high bill?' she asked. 'No one has complained to me about water leaking into their flat, and management would have noticed such a big leak. If my pipes really leaked HK$30,000 worth of water I would be living in a reservoir.'

Meanwhile, two people complained on Commercial Radio yesterday about their water bills. A Ms Kwok from Tai Po said she received a HK$12,000 bill that turned out to result from villagers using her tap.

A Mr Ho from Tsim Sha Tsui was told water to his building would be cut because the department had not been able to read the meter.