Irish Water’s response to leak proves a drain on Limerick councillors

Áine Fitzgerald


Áine Fitzgerald

Irish Water is warning that lead has been detected in the water supply in Ballynanty
A COUNTY councillor who rang Irish Water to report a burst pipe in his local town has described his encounter with the company as “the most negative experience I ever had with any support company”.

A COUNTY councillor who rang Irish Water to report a burst pipe in his local town has described his encounter with the company as “the most negative experience I ever had with any support company”.

While Cllr Mike Donegan said that when he had dealings with Irish Water during regular business hours in the past “they have been very helpful and professional” he did not enjoy a similar experience when he contacted them on Saturday, July 12 last.

“We had a water leak here in Kilmallock on Saturday. I rang Irish Water and it was the most negative experience I ever had with any support company. When I wanted to report the problem they said they weren’t accepting these problems over the weekend,” Cllr Donegan told a meeting of the Cappamore-Kilmallock municipal district.

The Kilmallock-based councillor said it was particularly frustrating for him as he had business people and local residents contacting him and he could provide them with little or no information on the matter. “I had business people ringing me on Saturday morning and it was embarrassing and frustrating that I didn’t know the answer, but thankfully a couple of hours later I got the engineer on call,” he told the meeting.

Speaking to the Leader following the meeting, Cllr Donegan explained that he rang Irish Water between 8.30am and 9am on Saturday, July 12 to report a burst pipe. He said he was initially calling as a consumer rather than as a councillor as his own home was affected by the incident.

The customer service person he said, told him that they weren’t aware of any outages. “They weren’t accepting that I could log a call with them. When I rang back the second time about two hours later it was a different customer service person and she said you have to contact the emergency engineer on call for Limerick County Council.”

“He [the engineer] told me about how long it would be out for and that they were working on it, so once I knew they were working on it I could tell people.”

Since January 1 2014, responsibility for the efficient supply of water to homes and businesses has transferred from local authorities to Irish Water, the new national water services authority.

Irish Water will bring the water and wastewater services of the 34 local authorities together under one national service provider. Irish Water are gradually taking over the responsibilities from these local authorities on a phased basis.

It will take approximately five years for Irish Water to be fully established, at which point it will be responsible for the operation of public water services.

According to Cllr Donegan, the water was back in the town of Kilmallock at 3pm on July 12.

“We want to make sure that if we are paying for the service that at least we get a proper service,” he said.

Cllr Noel Gleeson told the meeting that “the one thing I will say to ye is we don’t want to be answered with that 1890 craic”.

“We want to meet people face-to-face if at all possible. We have to be able to represent the people. I’m pure sick of that 1890,” he added. “You can’t give all day on a phone going from one place to another. You cannot do it.”

Kieran Lehane, director of service for water and environment with the local authority said Irish Water are currently building a profile on where the breaks are occurring and where the money needs to go.

The meeting heard that Irish Water are contracted for Monday to Friday and on the weekends the responsibility reverts back to the local authority.

A spokesperson for Irish Water said: “Irish Water are partners with the local authority so we are working together on it.”

She said if somebody experiences a difficulty at the weekend, they do ring Irish Water. “This is a system we are inheriting so normally what will happen is that we will be made aware of the problem initially - obviously every local authority is different but we will take the steps to make sure it is resolved as quickly as possible and usually that is working in conjunction with local authority representatives.”

In relation to this specific incident she added: “I have customer services management following up on this and they are going to contact the councillor directly. I cannot comment on this until the details of the outcome of this call are available.”