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Reaching Out

Addressing People’s Needs by Solving the Mystery of a Clogged Sewage Pipe

staffAndrew (left) and Leung Wai-shek (right) paya visit to Wing Cheung Building in which thesewage pipe was once clogged up by a tree.

ownerLeung Wai-shek stands in front of the toilet that was once blocked causing serious sanitary problem.

Leung Wai-shek, aged 72, had lived in Wing Cheung Building on 143, Queen’s Road West with his brother and mother for 34 years. The conditions of the old tenement building, built in the 1960s, had deteriorated badly and was beyond repair. It was included in the URA’s redevelopment scheme and acquired by the URA in March 2018. Back then, the Leung family was annoyed by a problem in the house: toilet blockage.

When Andrew Chan, Senior Acquisition and Clearance Officer of the URA visited the Leung family, he noticed a serious sanitary problem in their toilet. He then found out toilets in other units had the same clogged-up problem. Attempts to desilt the sewers had been made but were all in vain. In the end, it was discovered that the obstruction was caused by a tree attached to the building, whose roots and branches had seeped through the cracks of the sewage stacks and begun growing downward into the pipes over time causing blockage and sewer backflow. Drainage cleaners had been asked to help, but the problem remained and even worsened. Leung had no choice but to stuff piles of old clothes into the toilet. He then laid some heavy sandbags on top and sealed the toilet with a huge plastic bag.

houseThe tree that used to attach to Wing Cheung building and thrive on the rooftop is now removed.


houseThe tree attaching to the building has thrived having absorbed sunlight on the rooftop and being fertilised with waste in the pipes.

After that the toilet was completely out of use. The Leung brothers had to run back and forth to use the public toilet in a nearby football court, while their old mother could only use a potty to answer her nature’s calls. The two brothers then became “night soil workers” and disposed of the waste in the public toilet each day.

According to Andrew, toilet blockage was a longstanding problem of Wing Cheung Building. Yet the owners were helpless to the problem as they were incapable of organising works nor had they got sufficient funds. The URA eventually decided to replace all sewage pipes of the building and even expedited the works so that residents were able to live in a hygienic environment later again. He added that the URA’s prompt action to seek the consent of the residents for early implementation of works in spite of the yet-to-be completed acquisition of Wing Cheung Building reminded him of the URA’s mission to always understand people’s needs and improve the living environment for the people.

awardAndrew's (left) hard work pays off with his winning of the Ombudsman's Award in 2020.