Crash through a pipe: how not to become a victim of water and heat thieves

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In Russia, illegal connections to centralized utility networks continue to be recorded – to tie-ins to water and heat pipelines. In 2022, Rosvodokanal identified 1,988 cases of illegal connection, for which it collected fines in the amount of 331.5 million rubles. Illegal connection negatively affects the safety of utility systems and affects the quality of tap water and the level of heat in the premises. Who is stealing resources and how is the fight against illegal tie-ins – understood “Izvestia”.

Water hammer, breakthroughs and infections

The problem of illegal connection to centralized utility networks affects residents of private houses to a greater extent. Although not only them. As a rule, users tend to save on resources and not pay for utility bills. Many of the unauthorized users of water pipelines or heating systems are naively sure that the several cubic meters of water they have consumed in total will not be noticeable and will not harm anyone. However, according to Rosvodokanal experts, on average, up to 100 million cubic meters of water can leak through such tie-ins per day in Russia. And for the year in our country, about 60 thousand illegal tie-ins into pipes are detected, the company calculated specifically for Izvestia.

Illegal connections take their toll on consumers: pipes are depressurized, cutting off the water supply to neighboring houses. With legal connection, special disinfection and flushing of pipelines is mandatory, which, of course, is not done by an unauthorized person, which creates a risk of pollution in the general water supply. No less dangerous consequences can be water hammer and network breaks, which affect the safety of system operation and water quality.

Photo: Izvestia/Alexander Kazakov

“The tie-ins cause financial damage to resource-supplying organizations and the citizens themselves,” says Alexander Zaprudnov, commercial director of Rosvodokanal. — And all together negatively affects the development and modernization of infrastructure.

Unmetered consumption leads to an imbalance in the entire life support system of microdistricts of low-rise buildings in cities and towns. The problem is especially acute on hot summer days, according to the press service of the Krasnoyarsk water utility. Owners of illegal water pipelines uncontrollably pump water out of the main networks to irrigate household plots or fill swimming pools, while law-abiding citizens, due to low water pressure in pipes, are sometimes forced to wait an hour for one kettle to fill.

  • Theft can result in accidents on cold water supply networks at tie-in points, a shortage of cold water for most people due to an imbalance in water consumption, since the networks are designed for one volume of water supply, but in fact more is consumed. The budget of cities and villages suffers from losses due to the theft of resources, the Krasnoyarsk communal services emphasize.

Quite frequent violations are the use of hot water energy to connect a warm floor and an additional load on the heating system, for example, due to the use of additional radiators on the balcony, says Nikita Chulochnikov, president of the Association of Real Estate Service Companies (ACON). According to him, the left tie-in bypassing meters to reduce resource consumption is more common on power grids than on water pipes, but it is easier to detect, since modern electricity meters are installed outside apartments and are available to management companies and homeowners associations.

Photo: RIA Novosti / Kirill Kallinikov

In hot weather, water is usually stolen for washing large areas, watering the lawns of the surrounding area. In winter, water is more often spent for filling ice rinks, hockey rinks in the territory adjacent to the MKD and for washing vehicles, that is, where a large resource consumption is required at a time, the expert added.

The Russian Public Utilities Systems (RCS) indicate that illegal connections remain a serious problem for both water utilities and consumers. And it’s not just the theft of cold or warm water. Its quality is deteriorating.

“Unauthorized tie-ins cause excessive silting of sewers and blockages in water supply and sanitation networks,” the RCC explains. “Vodokanals are actively fighting against unauthorized connections, but vigilant neighbors often report the facts of water theft or illegal discharges into the public sewer.

According to the explanation of the press service of the T plus company, interference in the operation of heating networks endangers the reliability of heat supply, and can also disrupt hydraulic regimes.

“Residents receive less coolant, and resource-supplying organizations have to constantly increase the temperature and amount of coolant in order to maintain comfort in their homes,” they say in T Plus.

Unwillingly self-willed

Rosvodokanal noted that it is possible to become an unauthorized person without even knowing it. For example, when buying real estate, the new owner may not have the information that the house or building is illegally connected. In this case, the fine of the previous owners automatically passes to the new ones.

Photo: TASS/Sergey Bobylev

“In order not to be a violator, when buying a house, you need to check that the seller has a contract for connecting to centralized water supply or sanitation networks,” says Natalya Pobedinskaya, expert of the Public Council under the Ministry of Construction of Russia. – You should also check the payment of invoices under these agreements. In the absence of these documents, it is worth contacting the water supply organization to conclude an agreement.

To make sure that the connection is legal when buying real estate, you need to:

— clarify the status of the object in the water utility, as well as check for compliance with the technical plan and the project for the construction of the water supply network;

  • ask the previous owner to provide a copy of the contract with resource supply organizations and check for debts in the water utility;

  • find out about the availability of the technical passport of the meter and the act of admission of the metering device. The water meter and seals must be in working order – check with the water utility for the expiration date for checking the meter, as well as the debt for this object.

How self-tapping happens

Special investigations have shown that attackers crash either during the period of water cutoff for all residents (when the water utility is carrying out repairs), or they themselves find the right valve and block it for a while, or join working networks.

Photo: Izvestia/Konstantin Kokoshkin

At the planning stage, the robbers determine the exact location of the communications, to which the pipe is laid from the house. They also choose the connection method in advance. As a rule, there are two of them: by welding, where the network is temporarily turned off, as well as tapping under pressure – by drilling using a special clamp with a ball valve. In the first case, an experienced specialist uses a welding machine. In the second, everything is done on a quiet night. When such cuts are made, dirt, metal chips and scale get into the common conduit, Rosvodokanal warned.

Sanctions for illegal

Work with unauthorized connection must be carried out by the contractor of the utility service. If there are no direct contracts (Article 157.2 of the LC RF), then such a person is the MA / UK or HOA. The violator receives an act of unauthorized connection and a notification of the need to eliminate it in the form of an order from the manager. In case of non-compliance, a lawsuit is filed.

  • Simultaneously with the direction of the notification, the contractor makes additional charges for utilities consumed without proper accounting, – Nikita Chulochnikov explained. — Additional accrual is based on the volume of the communal resource, calculated as the product of the power of illegally connected equipment (for water supply and sanitation – by the capacity of the pipe), based on round-the-clock operation of the equipment for the period from the date of the unauthorized connection specified in the act of detecting the violation, to date of elimination of this inset.

    Photo: Izvestia / Dmitry Korotaev

If the power of illegally connected equipment cannot be determined, the head of the ACON notes, the stolen volume of water or heat is determined on the basis of the consumption standard for the relevant utilities, applying a multiplying factor to such a volume.

Thus, depending on the type of utility service, the penalty formula remains unchanged: the capacity or standard is multiplied by the tariff, by three months, and by a multiplying factor of 10. As a result, a significant sanction is obtained.

In general, the delimitation of the balance sheet ownership of networks between an apartment building and a supplier of utility resources is carried out by a locking device when networks are introduced into MKD, therefore, MA / UK and HOA actively control the operation of intra-house networks. The fight against unscrupulous consumers of water and sewage is carried out by bypassing (checking) common property in apartments, while the owners are warned about this in advance.

According to the regulations, inspection of premises, risers and wells is carried out at least once every three months, but in practice this is very difficult to implement, so violations are often detected when a plumber is called to fix leaks, replace sour taps, change a heated towel rail, batteries, etc., when a specialist gets access directly to risers and wells, said Nikita Chulochnikov.

In accordance with Art. 7.20 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation unauthorized connection to centralized water supply and sanitation systems entails the imposition of an administrative fine on citizens in the amount of 1 thousand to 1.5 thousand rubles, on officials – from 2 thousand to 3 thousand rubles, on legal entities – from 20 thousand to 30 thousand rubles.

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