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LCQ17: Repair and maintenance of drainage pipes

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Priscilla Leung Mei-fun and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):


     It has been reported that an accident occurred some time ago at Nelson Street of Mongkok, in which drain cleaner was suspected to have been splashed off the pipes on the external walls of a building, causing injuries to passers-by. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) as the "Minor Works Control System" which has been implemented since the end of 2010 regulates a total of 118 items of minor works, including the "erection, repair, alteration, addition and removal" of drains in residential buildings, as well as requires members of the public to employ "prescribed building professionals" or "prescribed registered contractors" to carry out the relevant works and submit to the authorities a certificate of completion of works, record plans and other relevant documents within 14 days of the completion of such works, how many certificates of completion of works and plans the authorities have received so far; whether any quality problem was found in individual works; whether the authorities have formulated monitoring measures to prevent flat owners from privately employing unauthorised persons to carry out the works; if they have, how many cases of non-compliance have been uncovered so far;

(b) as plumbing works in buildings are not included in the "Household Minor Works Validation Scheme", whether the authorities have carried out inspections or tests regularly on plumbing works in old buildings completed before the "Minor Works Control System" came into effect to ensure that the pipes are in good condition; if they have, of the progress of such inspection work; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) for old residential buildings with no owners' corporation, no owners' committee and no management company (which are commonly referred to as the "three NOs"), whether the authorities will consider providing emergency subsidies to their owners for carrying out tests and maintenance on the pipes on the external walls of their buildings, in order to prevent accidents caused by ageing pipes; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(d) whether the authorities had received in the past three years any complaint about serious leakage or seepage from pipes on the external walls of buildings; if they had, of the number of such complaints; the general procedure for handling complaints received by the authorities and the number of government departments involved; and what approach the authorities have adopted at present to handle cases in which the flat owners of the buildings concerned are unwilling to repair the leaking pipes for a long time?



     Drainage pipes are integral parts of a building and have direct bearing upon building safety and hygiene issues. Pipes without proper and timely maintenance may give rise to seepage or leakage. If the drainage pipe is located on the exterior of a building, it may affect passers-by or even cause health nuisances or safety concerns. As such, to strengthen the regulation of works involving drainage pipes, the Government has designated general drainage works as minor works for regulation under the Minor Works Control System, so as to achieve the purpose of ensuring works quality. Moreover, the Buildings Department (BD) will take enforcement actions under the Buildings Ordinance (Cap 123) against drainage pipes in defective or insanitary conditions, and require the owners concerned to take appropriate follow-up actions.

     My reply to the four-part question is as follows:

(a) By the end of October this year, the BD had handled around 4,800 certificates of completion, relevant record plans and documents concerning minor works. Among them, about 1,433 involved drainage works. To ensure their compliance with the requirements of the Buildings Ordinance, the BD will conduct random audit checks on these minor works after their completion. As at end October this year, the BD had conducted audit checks for 615 minor works, and none has been found to have building safety and hygiene problems due to poor works quality. As regards cases with owners employing non-prescribed building professionals and/or non-prescribed registered contractors to carry out minor works, the BD will investigate and take appropriate follow-up actions on any reported cases. As at end October this year, the BD had uncovered a total of 36 non-compliance cases concerning owners employing unqualified persons to carry out minor works (involving minor works of various kinds). BD has issued removal orders in those cases and is considering taking prosecution action against the parties involved.

(b) It is the owners' primary responsibility to inspect, repair and maintain their buildings to ensure that they are in a safe condition. As the regulatory authority, the BD has launched many large scale operations for inspecting dilapidated buildings. In addition to external walls and common areas, external drainage pipes of buildings are also covered in the inspections. If defects or dilapidation are found in the drainage pipes during the inspections, the BD will order the owners to take appropriate follow-up actions.

     The BD's large-scale operations include the Co-ordinated Maintenance of Buildings Scheme (the Scheme) launched in collaboration with other relevant Government departments in November 2000. During the ten years between 2000 and 2009 when the Scheme was implemented, more than 1,300 target buildings were identified for inspection, and assistance was provided to the owners in arranging repair works. To enhance building safety in Hong Kong, the BD launched a new large scale operation in April this year to inspect the conditions of 500 buildings each year and issue statutory investigation or repair orders where necessary. Preparation for the operation has been completed and the BD has started inspecting the target buildings.

     Apart from the above large scale operations, the Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme scheduled for implementation next year will also require owners of target buildings to regularly inspect and repair their buildings, including drainage pipes in the common areas or on the external walls.

(c) To assist owners in need in carrying out building maintenance and repair works, the BD, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) have launched a number of financial and technical assistance schemes, including the Comprehensive Building Safety Improvement Loan Scheme, the Building Maintenance Grant Scheme for Elderly Owners, and the Integrated Building Maintenance Assistance Scheme. Owners of buildings who have not formed owners' corporations (OCs) or other owners' organisations, and have not hired any property management companies, can also apply under the schemes in respect of building repair works (including external drainage pipe works). Furthermore, for buildings without OCs or owners' organisations, the HKHS and URA will encourage and help their owners to set up OCs or to organise common area repair works in accordance with the provisions of the deed of mutual covenant of the building. The HKHS and URA will also provide technical support and advice on issues related to works and tendering, etc.

(d) Generally speaking, complaints about defective or leaking drainage pipes on the external walls of private buildings are handled by the BD. Upon receipt of such complaints or referrals from other departments, the BD will carry out inspections. If it is found that the drainage pipes concerned are defective or are posing seepage and hygiene problems as a result of damage, the BD will invoke its power under section 28 of the Buildings Ordinance and issue a drainage repair order to the owners concerned, requiring them to carry out the necessary repairs within a specified period. In emergency cases, such as extensive seepage or serious hygiene problems caused by severely damaged drainage pipes, the BD will immediately arrange for emergency repairs by a Government contractor and then recover the cost from the owners.

     Upon receipt of a drainage repair order, the owner should appoint a qualified professional to investigate the damaged drainage pipes and carry out the necessary repairs within the specified period. If the owner fails to carry out the works as specified in the order within the specified period, the BD will consider taking further enforcement actions, including instigating prosecution against the owner, and appointing a Government contractor to carry out the necessary repairs, the cost of which plus a supervision charge will be recovered from the owner after completion of works.

     Over the past three years (i.e. from January 1, 2009 to September 30, 2011), the BD received a total of 18 050 complaints about defective or leaking drainage pipes in private buildings. The relevant information is tabulated below:

    Year                  Number of Complaints
    ----                  --------------------
    2009                      6 178
    2010                      6 630
    2011                      5 242
(as at September 30)

Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:26


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