Feng Ming Construction fined $56,500 for damaging water main and unauthorised piling works

Feng Ming Construction Pte Ltd has been fined a total of $56,500 for damaging a large water main and carrying out unauthorised sheet piling installation works at Dunearn Road in 2019. 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. As a result of the incident, water supply to 38 households in the vicinity was disrupted for about 9.5 hours. 

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. 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. PUB was alerted and immediately went on site to isolate the leak and carry out urgent repair works, which uncovered a hole of about 100mm by 30mm on the water main. PUB deployed a water wagon and provided water bags to the affected households.

Investigations revealed that Feng Ming Construction was aware of the existence of an underground water main as indicated in the PUB water service plan. However, the contractor had failed to carry out sufficient trial trenching evaluation to physically ascertain the exact location and alignment of the water main. 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 $200,000 or imprisonment for up to three years, or both. 

In addition, Feng Ming Construction commenced sheet piling works without submitting a plan for PUB’s approval as required. Under the Public Utilities (Protection of Water Pipes Infrastructure) Regulations 2017, contractors installing sheet piles or any other similar installations must ensure that the activity is carried out in accordance to an approved plan. This plan should be endorsed by a registered professional engineer and include a method statement, an impact assessment and instrumental monitoring proposal on carrying out the activity of sheet piling installation work. Contractors who fail to comply with the above provisions are liable to a fine of up to $10,000. 

On 25 August 2020, Feng Ming Construction was convicted of both charges – the company was fined $55,000 for damaging the 500mm diameter water main, the highest fine imposed by the State Courts for water main damage under the Public Utilities Act to date, and $1,500 for carrying out unauthorised sheet piling installation works. This is the second time that Feng Ming Construction was convicted for damaging a large water main. The company was fined $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. Contractors are reminded to always refer to PUB’s advisory on the prevention of damage to water pipe infrastructure before carrying out any construction works.