HELP! Water contamination

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HELP! Water contamination

Postby b4rodrig » 03 Nov 2011, 10:43

I live in an old building near Shi-Da/ Tai-Da. I'm on the 4th floor and a crew is doing construction in the vacant apartment above me. They began messing with the pipes about three days ago. Their "construction" caused my tap water to turn brown for a few minutes, no big deal. However, there is now also a smell to my tap water, like acetone or something. The smell has not gone away for three days, even though I have been running the water like mad. The guy running the construction upstairs tried to placate me by saying its fine and will go away in a few days, he even washed his face in it to "prove" the water was harmless. My questions are as follows:

1. Does anyone know where/ how I can get the water tested?
2. What recourse do I have against this guy if something is wrong with the water?

I'm hoping someone can help me. I've been really cordial with these guys while at the same time expressing my dissatisfaction. They don't seem to care how they are affecting others, and seeing as my apartment is right under the one they're working on, I seem to be the most affected. I haven't been able to shower at home for days now. Any help would be appreciated
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby TainanCowboy » 03 Nov 2011, 10:56

Call your local EPA office.

They will probably be on this in a hot minute. Someone in their office usually is 'engrish-friendly' also.

Just mention 'water polluted...bad bad'....speaking from experience here.
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby b4rodrig » 03 Nov 2011, 12:11

Thanks for the quick reply. I've contacted them and they should be in touch soon.
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby b4rodrig » 14 Nov 2011, 23:41

An update for anyone interested. The Taipei Water Department responded swiftly enough. They sent 2 employees to hand me a DIY PH kit. I asked if they could test to see if there were any chemicals in the water which would be unsafe for consumption. They claimed they could not smell the acetone like smell that I was talking about. Then, one of the "inspectors" gulped a mouthful of water and declared it obviously safe for consumption.

I then brought them up to the roof, where the pipes had been replaced, and they were told about a bonding agent which was used. The inspectors seemed assured, the smell will be around for a while, the smell that they couldn't smell 10 minutes earlier, and it would be best if I boiled my water before consumption. I asked how it was legal for someone to essentially poison my water, and they said the landlords had all agreed to the construction so there was nothing that could be done.

I tried to point out that if the water was dangerous, it wouldn't matter what kind of agreement was signed. And I stressed that the only way to prove the water was clean was proper testing. No dice. Before they left, I asked them to give the rest of the building the heads up about the water situation, that they should boil it for the next 6 months at least. Granted most people boil their water anyway, but I just wanted the rest of the building to hear it in case they cared to inquire further.

I contacted a private lab which sent me a rundown of a slew of tests that needed to be done to determine water safety, but the cost is about $18,000 TWD. I'm saving for a trip home for Christmas, so right now that cost is prohibitive, otherwise, I would have already had it done. All I've been able to do now is write a stern reply to the Water Department's e-mail, and ask that they conduct a proper inspection. But that will probably lead to nothing at all. I may well pony up to have the water checked out after my Christmas vacation.

Anyway, I just posted this in case anyone was interested.
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby Mucha Man » 15 Nov 2011, 00:12

I would fax a letter to the various departments explaining that you are extremely unsatisfied with the results and will be taking this to the next level. This involves contacting local legislative assembly members, Next Media, and the Control Yuan. You may also mention you are consulting a lawyer. Explain you have hired a company to do a thorough test of the water and if harmful chemicals show up you will consider suing for negligence.

Do not email. Fax or write a letter. It's the only way you will get a response. No one responds to emails.
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby engerim » 15 Nov 2011, 01:19

18000 TWD for the test sounds odd (sounds like a mineral/microbiolocial test I did once in Germany with Taiwan's spring water). Contact SGS Taiwan and see what they can do for simple water quality analysis. pH isn't everything. And if there are traces of some chemicals inside even a lab might not find them (depends on accuracy of each test). Knowing what kind of substance you suspect could help finding the right test.
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby Maceck » 15 Nov 2011, 03:39

Back in California, if you were a water customer, you had a right to post a complaint about the water. No matter what it was, if you thought the water tasted like paint, they tested it; if you thought the water tasted like farts, they tested it; no questions asked. Taiwan offers the same service, with a very similar laboratory. Some time ago engerim spent a small fortune exporting local drinking water samples to Europe, only to find out what the locals had already determined: nothing was doing. If you think you are smelling/tasting the lingering remnants of a joint compound from the piping, you are not going to win this case with laboratory tests*.
*What yo are experiencing is 'post construction disruption'. Legally speaking, there is almost nothing that can be done, and even if there was, we're talking NT$100,000 just to get started on something that *might* be real, but probably isn't.

To address your displeasure with the water department: it's not their problem! This is the result of an in-house construction issue that has nothing to do with city plumbing. YOUR building has caused this supposed contamination, not the city of Taipei, so lay off them.

If you really want to bring pressure to this situation, threaten your landlord. It's your choice how,but that man is the only one who is going to react (or solve) to your water problem. But, before you rattle too many sabers, remember you are only a measly foreigner; a stranger in a strange land. So, be prepared to battle properly, and accept appropriate consequences if applicable.
\
If the horrible water smell you detect is actually just a result of joint sealer, than it will be gone very soon. Plumbers, whether from America, Europe, or Asia, use roughly the same stuff to seal plastic pipes. Chances are good that whatever it is that has aroused your situation will be gone soon.

Don't, by any means. create a crazy foreigner episode base on your over-sensitive nose, because there are already enough crazy transplant town criers disenfranchising my people in this city.

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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby Icon » 15 Nov 2011, 11:56

I think the OP should rally the neighbors, and then the lizhang. The water problem is not only what you drink -boil does not help much in the case of metal/chemical contamination- but rather the problem that it is that same water you use to bathe, brush your teeth, etc.

I am appalled at the attitude of the EPA people. Once you have proper tests, a letter to teh papaers/a call to Apple Daily will learn them. :fume:
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby Mucha Man » 15 Nov 2011, 12:32

I once taught at a school that had terrible ventilation and by mid afternoon all the magic marker fumes from other classrooms would accumulate in my classroom. It made me and my co-teacher feel sick and probably explains why I had bronchitis for 9 months.

It was lucky we figured out what was going on (one day the fumes were so thick it was obvious what they were). After that I started taking the kids down to teach in the storage room. The management got pissed and I told them directly that if they were willing to hold a magic marker under their noses for the two hours I taught the class I would be willing to teach in that classroom. They were indignant that they couldn't do such a stupid thing and so I said firmly that neither would I.

My wife also rallied the parents to our cause though that was not easy. Some really didn't see the problem of their kids being exposed to toxic fumes for 2 hours.

In the end they put in a half-assed ventilation system. It was okay but I still quit the school 6 months later as I just did not trust that building.
“Everywhere else in the world is also really old” said Prof. Liu, a renowned historian at Beijing University. “We always learn that China has 5000 years of cultural heritage, and that therefore we are very special. It appears that other places also have some of this heritage stuff. And are also old. Like, really old.”

http://hikingintaiwan.blogspot.com/
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Re: HELP! Water contamination

Postby b4rodrig » 18 Nov 2011, 09:08

The Water Department is sending someone else out here on Nov. 21 to test for "heavy metals, volatile organic compounds" etc. I honestly hope nothing is wrong with my water, but the problem is I don't know.

@Macek I think I understand where you're coming from, but trust me I'm not trying for any kind of "foreigner episode". I also don't think my nose is "over-sensitive" as a few people who have been by my place have had no problems smelling the smell, including my roommate. You say that the smell will be gone soon, but the two people from the Water Department told me the smell will be around for a while, and will be worse on hot days. A lady from the EPA told me on the phone that she had a similar issue three years ago, and her water still smells.

Apparently my landlord ok'd the construction upstairs, but if there is anything wrong with the water, I'm guessing I can get them to fix it. I currently use bottled water to brush my teeth, but I did cave recently and started using the house water for bathing. I'm just looking for peace of mind.

You can claim I am being overly sensitive and suggest that this problem only exists as a result of my being a crazy transplant, that's pretty much the same attitude one of the Water Department officials they sent the first time had. However, I have become accustomed to that dismissive attitude, being a foreigner in Taipei. I have experienced times when I definitely over- reacted, and times when my so-called over-sensitive foreigner nature has led to legitimate recompense, because there was a legitimate problem.

I ran the water for days thinking it would go away and it didn't. Now I just want to know if the water is safe. If it isn't, I want proof so I can get someone to fix it. I would rather the Taipei Water Department bear the cost of testing, but as I've said I'm willing to pony up for it if I need to.

What I didn't appreciate was the Taipei Water Department sending out a couple of people to hand me a DIY PH kit and gargle my water. I would have rather they said "it's your problem" than do that. But like I said, they'll be out here on Monday to have another shot at letting me know what an overly sensitive winey little bitch I'm being about this whole thing. Maybe they'll even drink some more of my water, look me in the eyes and say, "see, totally safe......pussy"
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