Former buildings chief fined for failing to stop toilet leak
Joyce Ng and Elaine Yau
A former director of the Buildings Department has been fined HK$1,750 for failing to comply with an order to stop water seeping from a toilet in his flat.
Choi Yu-leuk, 71, was convicted in Kowloon City Magistracy yesterday after a dispute with a neighbour that has gone on for years.
Choi, a hydraulics expert, had gone to the extent of carrying out his own tests on the water system to show hygiene officials that the seepage did not originate from his flat. He is considering an appeal.
Asked if an appeal was appropriate given the size of the fine, Choi said: 'This is an appropriate question. As professional engineers, we have professional conduct and we'll consider what we should do.' Choi was represented by senior counsel Eric Kwok Tung-ming. .
Choi was charged for failing to comply with the requirements of a nuisance notice issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department in March last year, which ordered him to repair the floor slab and walls of the domestic helper's toilet in his Prince Edward Road West flat to prevent seepage to the flat below.
Delivering his verdict, Magistrate Timothy Casewell said although Choi had subsequently carried out the relevant work, it was unsatisfactorily done. The seepage continued until Choi had his domestic helper stop using the toilet and eventually removed the structure.
He accepted prosecution evidence that all other locations, including the flat above Choi's, had been eliminated as possible sources of the seepage.
Kwok, in pleading for a nominal fine for Choi, said the retired official had been co-operative in dealing with the problem: Choi and his experts had conducted tests in addition to those of the government. He said the case was only 'a difference in opinion'.
The victim of the water seepage Mrs Hu, who lives directly beneath Choi's flat, said the fine was too light. 'The event has dragged on for so many years and involved so many government personnel and tests. It's a waste of public money,' she said.
At her home, Hu showed reporters bottles of the green-coloured water the government used in its seepage tests, around 2007, to find the origin of the seepage. She has kept the water ever since. The water made her kitchen ceiling tiles fall off, exposing the underlying concrete in places.
The seepage began in 2003, she said. 'We used to dangle six plastic bags from the ceiling to store the water. The bags, filled with water, crashed to the ground the next morning as they are too heavy, spilling water all over the floor. We poked holes into the plastic bags so that water would flow from them to the buckets placed underneath. One litre of water leaked every day.'
She is worried that the water seepage will continue. She said the seepage stopped after Choi removed the toilet in May last year.
'He just kept denying there was any problem with his drainage system and didn't fix the system. We couldn't sleep over this. I nearly stumbled on the slippery floor once, burning my hair on the oven.
'Given his personality, I am worried that he might use the toilet one day and the seepage problem will come back,' she said.