Households face bill for builders' botched water pipes
HOMEOWNERS face the prospect of paying hundreds of euro to replace water pipes because developers ignored building regulations during the boom.
Pipes not buried sufficiently deep to prevent them freezing during cold spells may have to be replaced when water meters are being installed -- and the homeowner is likely to be hit with the bill.
The Irish Independent has learned that Irish Water, which is in charge of the metering programme, expects to have "some issues" when it begins installing one million meters in homes across the country from the middle of next year.
These include having to replace water mains and service pipes leading into homes because they are in poor condition or not buried deep enough.
But the cost of replacing the service pipes will have to be met by the homeowner, because they are responsible for their upkeep. No decision has been made on whether local authorities will help meet the costs.
The bill is likely to be hundreds of euro per property if work needs to be carried out.
Building regulations oblige developers to bury service pipes connecting homes to the public mains at a depth of at least 60cm (two feet) to prevent freezing, because the soil acts as a natural insulator.
Hundreds ruptured in the three-week cold snap during the winter of 2010, which suggested they were not buried deep enough.
Water mains must be at least 90cm or three feet below street level, but there are concerns that some of these may not have been correctly installed.
In cases where the pipes holding the boxes do not comply with the building code, they may have to be replaced.
Work on installing boundary boxes, which hold the meters, will begin next summer. Some 27,000 a month will be installed, and the entire metering programme is expected to be completed at the end of 2016 at a cost of €500m.
"We anticipate there will be some issues," a spokesman for Irish Water said.
"In the course of the installation of the boundary boxes it is anticipated that non-standard conditions may be met in some cases, for example, if the boundary box cannot be installed because of the depth of the existing pipes or where the pipes are in poor condition.
"In certain circumstances, it may be advisable to replace the service pipe between the meter and the home. The homeowner is currently responsible for the pipe within the boundary of their property, however no decision has been made on the question of how the costs of these particular works will be dealt with by the local authorities."
The cost of replacing and relaying mains pipes will be met by the local authority, before ownership is transferred to Irish Water from 2014.
The Department of the Environment said that funding for metering installation had not yet been finalised and that some issues would arise.
The number of homes which might be affected is not known.