Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Water sorry for E.coli ordeal

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Northern Ireland Water has apologised after a mother and her five-year-old son contracted E.coli from their household water supply.

Nichola Henry (41) and her young son Calum fell ill when their water became contaminated after contractors burst a water pipe outside their Co Antrim home.

Mrs Henry's husband Wesley said he is outraged by the situation and claimed the water authorities took "too long" to deal with the contamination.

"My wife and son had a bug - they had diarrhoea, a sore tummy and couldn't eat," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It was only after they went to the doctor that we found out they actually had E.coli.

"It was pretty worrying. When you hear 'E.coli' your mind just starts to race."

E.coli (Escherichia coli) are bacteria that normally live in the intestines of humans and animals.

Although most strains of these bacteria are harmless, several are known to produce toxins that can cause diarrhoea.

One particular E.coli strain called O157 can cause severe diarrhoea and kidney damage.

Mr Henry added: "There was a burst water main outside our front door and our water was dirty, so we didn't drink it.

"We were told that when it ran clear again the water would be safe to drink.

"But our water was as clear as a bell and it was still contaminated.

"Imagine if there had been a baby in the house - it doesn't bear thinking about. We have an ice machine in our fridge and we have been using away at it.

"We didn't get a boil notice for several days after it happened.

"But I had to make about 40 calls to NI Water, and the contractors said they would bring us out water, and all they sent was two bottles of water. It was ridiculous."

In a statement NI Water apologised for any inconvenience caused.

"NI Water can confirm that a water quality issue with the water supplied to one property in the Gracehill area of Ballymena has occurred," a spokeswoman said.

"The issue was discovered after samples were lifted from each property in the area following a burst on the main.

"It is routine protocol that NI Water tests the water after a burst occurs to ensure quality is maintained.

"The results of these tests identified one property where the water quality samples failed.

"Once this was confirmed, NI Water in conjunction with the Public Health Agency issued a precautionary boil notice to the occupier of this property and immediately started work to rectify this situation. This boil notice remained in place for two days.

"NI Water has since transferred this customer's supply onto a new water main where all tests came back clear. It is not known yet why this single property was affected."

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