SINGAPORE - "How can my son rest in peace when his grave is soaked in water?"
This question has been upsetting housewife Pauline Ong since January, when she buried her 13-year-old son in Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery.
At that time, water up to 30cm deep had to be drained from the empty crypt. The family is worried that water has again entered the grave, as they suspect the lid is not watertight.
They are not the only ones.
In the past six months, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has received six complaints about possible water-logging.
But the authority insists there is no need for worry.
"There is no further accumulation of water in occupied crypts," said the agency last week. This is because the crypt is filled with earth "to the brim" after the water is pumped out and the lid is closed.
The agency did, however, admit that there had been "occasions of water pooling in some of the (unoccupied) crypts whenever there is heavy rain".
Efforts have been made to improve drainage at the cemetery with new and wider drains.
Crypts were also designed without a concrete base to allow water to drain away, said NEA, adding that it is "studying if further improvements can be made to the drainage system".
But the pooling of water was common even before the use of the crypt system, especially at sections on low-lying ground, it explained.
In the past, graves were just holes in the ground and were not lined with concrete walls.
The crypt burial system was introduced in 2007, to help stretch the amount of space available for burials at the Choa Chu Kang cemetery, the only place for new graves. The system is designed to increase the lifespan of the cemetery, which has more than 1,000 Christian graves. The crypt system also prevents graves from sinking or shifting due to soil erosion or bad weather.
One tombstone contractor, who has worked at Choa Chu Kang's Muslim grave site for over 30 years, said: "Sometimes have (flooding), sometimes don't have. But when (the flooding) happens, the water will be there for two to three days."
The contractor, who declined to be named, added that the problem has been around since 2007 but he is unsure of the cause.
Despite NEA's assurances, some families remain concerned.
Retiree Tan Ee Seong, 76, visits his wife, who was buried in 2010 at the Christian site, nearly every evening. "I'm concerned that with the coming monsoon rains, the flooding might worsen and affect new burials."
Dr Chew Soon Hoe, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore who specialises in geotechnical engineering, said some flooding in the low-lying area in the Choa Chu Kang cemetery may be "unavoidable".
But "as long as proper water clearing and drainage is done before the burial, families should not be unduly concerned as water pooling should not occur with a filled crypt".
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.