By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Thieves have swiped 17 large water meters during a weekend stealing binge in Dandenong South’s industrial estate.
Factories and offices in Brindley Street, Oppenheim Way, Frankston-Dandenong Road and Monash Drive were among the targets over the weekend of 10-12 May.
According to police, the brazen thievery occurred at varying times of day and night, presumably to convert the devices into scrap metal.
As a result, premises were flooded over the weekend.
Water supplies and business operations were disrupted while costly repairs and reinstallations were carried out the following Monday.
A worker at Kingseng Aluminium Australia noticed a neighbour’s factory being flooded by water about 1pm on 11 May.
He had assumed that there was a water leak.
“It wasn’t until Monday morning that we found out that the water meter had been stolen, as well as the neighbours and several others in the area,” a Kingseng spokesperson said.
Another Brindley Street worker said “water gushing up into the sky”.
South East Water customer service delivery manager Terry Schubach said the theft of large water meters was an ongoing issue.
“Thieves often target them due to their scrap metal value.
“This also includes any metals that are associated with plumbing fittings.”
In the 2018-‘19 financial year, South East Water had suffered 40 thefts of similar larger industrial water meters, Mr Schubach said.
Two years ago there was a spate of 57 reported thefts in the Dandenong and Cranbourne industrial areas.
In the past, the water utility, police and the scrap metal industry had tracked stolen meters using serial numbers, Mr Schubach said.
As a result, devices have been recovered and offenders successfully prosecuted.
The 17 meters have cost South East Water more than $8000 to replace.
The potentially expensive cost of reinstallation works is billed to the customers.
“We usually supply their preferred licensed plumber or contractor with the replacement meter as soon as possible so we can get their water supply back on quickly,” Mr Schubach said.
“Unfortunately this can also be an expensive job as there’s often been damage done to the customer’s pipes, backflow devices or even the property itself.”
John Bolch of Commercial Plumbing Maintenance who carried out several repairs in Brindley Street said businesses shut down temporarily due to the water outage.
It cost the victims plenty in terms of lost production, lost wages as well as the repair bills.
“It’s more the damage they’ve done in removing them.
“They break it out of the ground, they break the copper tubes off, they break the copper pipe upstands.”
Often a considerable amount of water escapes due to the removal of stop valves, Mr Bolch said.
“They don’t get much money for the scrap but the cost of replacing them is quite a lot.”
He was taking orders from victims for meter cages to deter future thieves.
Greater Dandenong CIU is investigating the thefts.
Any information to South East Water on 13 28 12, Greater Dandenong CIU on 9767 7487 and Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or crimestoppersvic.com.au