Meet the man who keeps it smooth-going for residents

Washing, flushing, draining… these are daily necessities we do at home several times a day, often without a second thought. Not known to many, this is largely thanks to one man who has been keeping our plumbing system running so that we are able to go about our daily chores without fuss.

That’s the task of Mr Chin Kar Yong, a plumber attached to the the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council to oversee the sanitation and plumbing needs of Toa Payoh residents. Another plumber takes care of the Bishan estate.

Kar Yong has been working with the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council for four years. His main responsibilities include, among others, repairing pipe leakages and tending to burst pipes in the common areas, clearing the chokes in manholes and tending to irregularities in water pressure and overflows in the rooftop water tanks.

Given the number of flats in the estate, it’s not surprising that each day he has more than 10 cases to attend to. He would be informed of the cases via SMS from the Town Council. Then he sets out prioritising his work, attending to the more serious cases first.

However, do take note that Kar Yong’s work does not extend to internal plumbing issues in the flats. He’ll only attend to them if the issues are caused by or related to the main water pipe. “But many residents don’t understand this, and they call the Town Council to send someone down, even if their problem is not within my job scope,” he said. “I have to spend time explaining to the residents and this holds back my work.”

In one extreme incident he recalled a resident locked him in his house. He was only allowed to leave when he threatened to call the police. “The repair job should be done by the resident’s own contractor as his problem isn’t related to supply from the Town Council water main,” he explained as he gesticulated with his handphone.

Also, there were times when residents stood him up at the appointed time. They changed the appointment at the last minute. The result: he has to work overtime to as late as 8pm. A normal work day for him is from 8am to 5pm, Mondays-Fridays (excluding public holidays).

Nevertheless, despite the relatively thankless nature of the job, Kar Yong is cheered by opportunities to serve the old and needy residents in the estate. He finds it rewarding to see their gratitude-filled faces after a job is done and considers this one of the perks of his job. “They really think of it as a huge help,” he smiled.

Patience is a key quality for a plumber, he said. It is not only important for communicating with residents, but also for diagnosing more complicated cases.

Once an underground pipe at the market at Block 127 had burst, he recalled. With the assistance of PUB, they managed to locate the leak. It took about a month to repair the leakage because they had to remove the concrete to get access. Kar Yong is more than ready to “roll up his sleeves” to get a job done. There are times when he needs to use his hands to remove the debris choking the water way and plumbing tools don’t work. This could be caused by hardened cement and even broken bricks that got into the manhole.

So how does he unwind from his tedious job on his days off on weekends? His eyes brightened as he said: “Playing online games”. Kar Yong lives with
his mother and younger brother. He also enjoys conversation with his younger brother, who used to be a plumber and they are able to relate to talk about his work.

“My younger brother inspired me to go into plumbing,” he shared.

– This article first appeared in a Town Council newsletter as part of a profiling feature