Over the first six months of 2016, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) has registered fewer complaints and issued less fines regarding dripping air conditioning equipment, according to Lau Iu Kun, chief of the Division of Inspection of IACM’s Department of Environment, Hygiene and Licensing.
At a press conference on Friday and after the Times sent questions to IACM, Lau presented data indicating that the number of complaints and notices had decreased from 702 in 2014 to 559 this year.
Overall, the number of complaints decreased by about 19 percent compared to 2015.
Regarding the department’s fines and subsequent legal action taken against owners of faulty A/C equipment, the figures dipped slightly from 108 registered fines in 2015 to 102 in 2016, compared to 74 fines in 2014.
According to Lau Iu Kun, the decrease is due to the IACM’s “awareness work that has been ongoing […] in the buildings and condominiums” and the “rising civic awareness of the population,” he said, adding that the IACM “did several awareness campaigns on the radio, TV and with the distribution of leaflets.”
Lau added that as of March 2016, the IACM had issued a total of 1,345 notices to buildings to gain the attention of residents with faulty A/C equipment. He said most of the problems had to do with the installation of the air conditioning equipment. “When we install an air conditioning unit, we must connect a pipe so the water doesn’t run [down] to the street,” Lau said.
It is also important “to do proper maintenance after a few years of use in order to verify if everything is running well, because sometimes we don’t know that a problem is happening and as the machines get old, water drips [and] problems might arise,” Lau said, adding that when a complaint is filed and the problem verified, the IACM will notify the owner and give them a deadline to fix the equipment.
“It is the duty of the owners to verify and fix these situations [of water falling in public areas],” he said. “It disturbs the passers-by, wets the public space and affects public hygiene.”
Lau reaffirmed that IACM will continue to follow its usual process: “The acknowledgement of the owner [that he has a problem], the civic education and, only after those do not produce the desired effects, we have to resort to fines.”
No action in Hong Kong to punish negligent owners
Cases of dripping air conditioners are very common in Hong Kong and the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported last month that there had been 10,000 complaints this year alone. However, the neighboring region’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department served only 416 notices and prosecuted 0.02 percent of those responsible for the faulty machines.
SCMP interviewed concerned residents and public health experts who claimd that the puddles caused by the dripping air conditioning equipment are breeding grounds for legionnaires’ disease and mosquito larvae.
Over the last decade, 170,407 complaints were made in Hong Kong about the dripping machines. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department served 5,256 notices and issued 12 prosecutions between 2004 and 2014.