Belfast Telegraph

Water crisis forced families to use melted snow - and more disruption is expected this weekend

By Chris Kilpatrick

Water shortages have forced families to collect snow for drinking and washing - with more disruption to supplies expected throughout the weekend.

Ongoing industrial action has been blamed for the problems which have affected counties Fermanagh and Tyrone.

Nipsa, Unite and GMB members voted for a work-to-rule and withdrawal of on-call services and overtime.

Union representatives met Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy on Wednesday but, as yet, no compromise has been reached over pay and pensions.

An airlock has been blamed for leaving 150 homes without water in Strabane.

Northern Ireland Water said resources were being made available from water tanks at Sixtowns Road in the town.

Angry residents have hit out at the length of time it has taken to fix the problem.

"This is the second full day we've had to use melted snow," one said.

"They keep telling us it'll go back on, but they keep pushing it back.

"We're having to use melted snow to wash our faces. There's not a bottle of water to be found in the area."

Last weekend 10,000 people were left without water in the Fermanagh and Tyrone areas after a fault at the Killyhevlin treatment works.

Northern Ireland Water said it was doing all it could to address the problems, but in a statement yesterday it warned of an increase in problems in the coming days.

It said it had made a third formal offer to unions, including movement on pensions and the potential for a pay settlement.

The wrangle between unions and NI Water began last month.

"Whilst this offer is being considered, the company sought a re-instatement of the protocol to protect public health and critical customers; this was declined," an NI Water spokesman said.

"The result of this is that customers across Northern Ireland now face the prospect of supply interruptions on a scale greater than those which affected Fermanagh and Tyrone during the week.

"The company has sought to end this dispute by putting forward a number of proposals, but the key demand from unions that pension reform be deferred is not something that NI Water management have in their power to deliver.

"We would assure customers that all resources at our disposal will be deployed to minimise disruption," he added.

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