The neighborhood playground behind my house is turning into a community park. The grass is now green all over. The sharp laterite stones that used be all over the grounds have disappeared under the grass. Over the years the trees have grown, and when they flower they made the surroundings beautiful.
In the mornings the grounds’ concrete walking paths are filled with people sweating it out walking and jogging. Including myself. And the sepaktakraw and futsal courts are occupied with ladies doing taichi and dancercise to the beats of Chinese and contemporary music.
In the afternoons the children and teenagers come out to play. Even babies and toddlers are out and about accompanied by their babysitters and home helpers. The grownups also come out to laze around or simply sit on the timber benches.
To make the grounds safer at night, we had requested the local council to install lights. They did that.
Three metal poles with floodlights were installed. Things worked fine until about three months ago, when I noticed that the lights, all three of them, no longer worked.
Nothing seemed to happen to rectify the situation. So three weeks ago I phoned the council’s hotline and made a formal complaint. I gave them time, but nothing happened even after one week. So I phoned back. The hotline person told me they had forwarded the complaint to their engineering department. I asked her when could I expect the complaint to be attended to. She could not give me a date. Instead she suggested that I call the engineering department directly. Bl**dy he**. I was fuming. I then wrote an email to one of the councilors (Ahli Majlis), addressing it to the councilor’s official email address as written on the council’s website. I never got a reply. I did get an official computer-printed letter acknowledging my complaint though. But they took their sweet time on the complaint. Only yesterday something did happen and the lights came back on.
But danger lurks.
Yesterday morning when I did my morning jog I realized that the lights were still blazing at 7.30 am. I knew that the grounds’ lights were timed to switch on at 7.00 pm and switch off at 7.00 am.
So after my routines I went to one of the light poles, and gingerly touched the metal pole. I got shocked, literally. The feeling of an electric shock was unmistakeable . It felt like a 50 Hertz AC. I saw that the wiring cover near the bottom of the pole was partly open, and red wires were visible.
I went to the next pole. Another electric shock. Then to the last pole. Yet another electric shock.
I then walked home, took out my digital multimeter and DSLR camera, and returned to the playground. I went to the first pole, pushed the meter’s black probe through the grass into the soil and touched the red probe to the pole’s metal surface. The LCD read 98 volts AC. Took photos. Then I went to the second pole. 106 volts AC. Then to the third pole. 75 volts AC.
No wonder I got the electric shock. The leakage currents flowing on the poles were at least 1/3 of Malaysia’s domestic voltage of 240 volts. This was not supposed to be happening.
In the afternoon I returned to the playground to check whether the lights were still on. They were off. For comparison, I took measurements on the three poles again. I got 0.20 volts, 0.25 volts and 0.06 volts respectively. That was a relief. With the lights off, there was no leakage current on the metal poles.
Last night after coming back from the surau, I returned to the playground. The lights were on. OK. So they had corrected the timing of the lights. I wanted to see whether the electric leakages on the poles were still there. Unfortunately, they were. 121 volts, 110 volts and 82 volts. The figures were worse that the afternoon’s readings.
I’m making another complaint to the council’s hotlines immediately after completing this post. And I’m going to tell them to see the pictures on this post, so that they can understand the danger the poles are posing to the unsuspecting public.
MPSJ hotline staff or management – if you’re reading this, please take immediate action. Please check and rectify the poles’ electrical wiring. Something is wrong there. Together, you and me can ensure that no one – toddler, child, teenager or even an adult, would be hurt or worse.