Northern Ireland Water’s plan for tackling the burst pipes crisis was inadequate and not fit for purpose, a highly critical report by a leading consumer watchdog has concluded.
The damning report from the Consumer Council said the fiasco — which saw 40,000 customers left without water — became a crisis after a series of “monumental” failures.
It found there were “many gaps” in NI Water’s major incident plan, concluding it was “neither adequate or fit for purpose”.
The problems experienced |by customers without water were, it continued, made worse by a lack of sufficient and correct information.
It claimed the overwhelming view of consumers was that NI Water had done too little, too late.
The chief executive of the Consumer Council, Antoinette McKeown, said there was widespread anger at how the crisis had been handled.
“NI Water’s failings were on a monumental scale throughout Christmas and the New Year — many consumers lost a precious holiday with family and friends,” she said.
The fiasco was sparked by a sudden thaw in temperatures following days of freezing weather.
Around 40,000 customers |were left without water — some for up to a fortnight.
Thousands of people said |they were unable to get through on NI Water’s phoneline and |experienced difficulties with the company’s website.
The report said NI Water’s major incident plan failed to deal effectively with issues such as co-ordination between public |support agencies, communication with customers and ensuring |people most at risk received adequate support.
It noted that on December 28 there were 403,420 attempts to get through to NI Water’s customer relations centre. However, just 3,344 of these calls — less than 1% — were answered.
The report said consumers were frustrated by the lack of and |quality of information.
A spokesperson for NI Water said it would consider the report.
“NI Water is presently involved in contributing to a number of reviews and investigations surrounding the recent freeze thaw incident,” she said.