Supermarkets inundated with demand for bottled water were being forced to ration sales yesterday after warnings were issued about drinking water quality across the east of Northern Ireland.
Tesco said it was re-directing bottled water supplies from stores elsewhere in Northern Ireland after shoppers swarmed to stock up.
Around 220,000 households across counties Antrim and Down, including Belfast, were warned to boil water destined for cooking and drinking after a sample raised concerns about the quality of water supply from Northern Ireland Water’s Dunore Point waterworks.
Supermarket Tesco said it had noticed a very substantial increase in sales of bottled water from early yesterday morning when the notice was issued.
Spokesman Stephen Cochrane said yesterday: “People have been buying large quantities and in fact we will be introducing a limit on the amount individuals can buy so that everyone has a fair chance of getting something.
“We are currently moving supplies from our depot in Antrim and are re-directing water destined for other stores to those within the areas affected in order to try to accommodate our customers.
Speaking of measures taken during the scare, he said: “We have already held urgent discussions with our local suppliers here in Northern Ireland to try to ensure that we can meet demand.”
Hospitals across the area affected also took measures to protect patients in the event of any risk. The Royal Hospitals, which administers the Royal Victoria, Mater and City Hospitals in Belfast, said it had arranged for delivery of bottled water to wards and facilities that care for patients.
“It has not caused any problems — it’s something that happens from time to time and it’s not a problem,” a spokesperson said at the time of the warning.
Meanwhile, a Northern Trust spokesperson said a number of facilities had been affected, including Antrim Area hospital, Braid Valley Hospital, Holywell Hospital and Whiteabbey Hospital, along with some nursing homes.
“We are boiling water in the kitchens and allowing it to cool before it is used,” she said yesterday.
“Tap water has been withdrawn and bottled water is being supplied, and salads and cold foods have been withdrawn from the menus.”
Restaurants were also affected, with The Apartment in Belfast switching tap water for bottled water.
General manager Morgan Watson said during the alert: “All our ice goes through a special filter before it goes into the machine. We haven’t heard a whole lot from Northern Ireland Water — there hasn’t been a lot of communication.”
And Pedro Donald, manager of La Boca in Belfast City Centre, said yesterday: “The guys have been in the kitchen boiling water, but it hasn’t caused too many problems to be honest.”