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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Irish Water: Now 600,000 left without emergency service

No call-out cover if pipes burst after office hours

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

Published 23/06/2014 | 02:30

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Water in Dublin could come from the Shannon under new plans
Water in Dublin could come from the Shannon under new plans
The issue was raised with the company by Sinn Fein environment spokesman Brian Stanley. Photo: Tom Burke
The issue was raised with the company by Sinn Fein environment spokesman Brian Stanley. Photo: Tom Burke

ALMOST 600,000 people have no out-of-hours service to deal with water and sewerage emergencies – despite facing charges from October.

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Irish Water is facing fresh controversy after it admitted there was no emergency coverage in place outside of business hours and at weekends in six local authorities.

Households faced with a burst pipe or sewerage problem on a Friday evening will have to wait more than 60 hours for a response from the new utility.

The oversight was last night described as "outrageous", given that the average family will be paying in the region of €240 a year for their water service.

Correspondence seen by the Irish Independent confirms the lack of an emergency response.

It says: “When a customer rings the Irish Water call centre, the adviser raises a service request on behalf of the customer and it is actioned by the local authority the next working day when business resumes.”

Politicians from the areas involved – Galway County, Laois, South Tipperary, Leitrim, Westmeath and Wicklow – were last night astonished by the revelations and demanded that a 24-hour service be put in place.

Irish Water expects to raise between €350m and €500m from charges next year.

Despite taking over responsibility for the network in January, and taking all calls regarding water services since the end of April, the utility company said there is no system in place to allow emergency works to be carried out outside office hours for nearly 600,000 people.

“Where we can, Irish Water provides an out-of-hours service based on the arrangements that local authority staff would have previously had in place,” the company said.

“However, there are six local authorities who did not have, prior to Irish Water being set up, and currently do not have, an official out of hours service after 5pm and at weekends.”

The issue was raised with the company by Sinn Fein environment spokesman Brian Stanley, pictured below. He said the problem emerged when he went to a constituent's home which was affected by an overflowing sewerage pipe.

“What happened was an elderly man had gone to stay with relatives, and we discovered on a Sunday afternoon that the sewerage was rising was up to the front step of the door,” he said. “This situation is totally unsatisfactory. Water flows around the clock and you have to have people available around the clock.”

Irish Water said that any issues relating to the network could be reported directly to the company, and that it was working to provide an out-of-hours service in the six local authority areas.

The company could be reached by phone 24 hours a day, on 1890 278 278, a spokeswoman said, or by emailing customerservice@water.ie.

But Mr Stanley said the service being provided at a local level fell short of what was promised. “We have been fed the line that all of this would be tied up with no loose ends but Irish Water haven't sorted this out,” he said.

Labour TD for Westmeath Willie Penrose said that the charges should not be put in

place until the out-of-hours service is available.

“That's only right. It's one of the most critical issues that needs to be fixed,” he told the Irish Independent.

Independent TD Denis Naughten, whose constituency covers south Leitrim, described the situation as “outrageous”.

“The idea that families can be left without water over an entire weekend in 2014 is incredible.

“There is a basic public health issue here and Irish Water cannot be allowed to get away with this, especially now they are charging people for the privilege.”

Irish Independent

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