Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Northern Ireland Water to face minister over supply fiasco

Laurence MacKenzie, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Water at NI Water Westland House
Laurence MacKenzie, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Water at NI Water Westland House

The company in charge of Northern Ireland's faltering water supply will meet the minister responsible today with mounting anger at the way it has handled the crisis.

Senior ministers last night said some at Northern Ireland Water should consider their positions as anger increases over the tens of thousands of people left without supplies.

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy meets the board of the state-owned company today.

"I will be seeking assurances that this will not happen again this winter," he said.

As temperatures plummeted to record lows pipes froze and when the rapid thaw followed after Christmas there was a massive number of bursts.

NIW hopes to have much of Belfast reconnected today but it could be early next week before those in remote areas receive help.

Scotland has already provided bottled water and the Westminster Coalition is prepared to provide extra call centre staff, water tankers and engineers.

Ministers have branded NIW's handling of the crisis as "shambolic" and called for somebody to be held to account.

Last night Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "There has to be accountability and we are not going to under those circumstances stand here and make excuses for a body that has so miserably failed our citizens."

And First Minister Peter Robinson said: "There has to be an accountability for what has taken place and we don't think anybody could suggest NIW have covered themselves with any glory over the past days and people must assess their position."

He added: "We are not satisfied with the performance and are absolutely determined that it will not be repeated.

"It has been shambolic at stages, it has been ineffective, it has not been the kind of organisation that has been fit for purpose."

NIW has pointed to years of underinvestment in the supply network and blamed much of the leakage on private property owners not checking their premises. Millions of extra litres are thought to be gushing out through unidentified leaks.

The Assembly returns next month and that will increase the pressure for resignations, although at this stage NIW chief executive Laurence MacKenzie says he is focused on the job in hand and working hard to co-ordinate the relief effort.



Water info on digital TV

Belfast City Council is using digital television to update residents without internet access on how to obtain water during the current crisis. In addition to a free telephone helpline - 0800 707 6965 - information from the council’s website is being replicated on a digital TV channel, available for Sky and Virgin Media users.

To use the digital television service, Sky users should go to channel 539 and press the red button. Virgin Media users should press the Interactive button, select News & Info and then select Looking Local, Northern Ireland and then Belfast.

For residents with internet access, updates can be found at www.belfastcity.gov.uk, via Facebook at www.facebook.com/belfastcitycouncil and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/belfastcc



Factfile

  • If you suspect a burst water main, contact NI Waterline on 0845 744 0088.
  • Belfast residents can call the council’s emergency helpline on 0800 707 6965.
  • A list of emergency supply points can be found at www.niwater.com.
  • A list of registered plumbers can be found at www.snipef.co.uk.
  • Check online to see if your area is experiencing alternating water supplies resulting in temporary water loss.
  • Bring your own clean, empty containers to water depots and remember to boil water before use.
  • Check on elderly and infirm neighbours who may be unable to travel to emergency water supply points

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