Public backs family's Water Service fight
An Ulster family are gathering public support in their fight with the Water Service over their planned house extension for their disabled daughter.
Colm Rafferty (39) and his wife Teresa (41) have been told they must pay £20,000 to reposition a water mains pipe if they want to extend their west Belfast home.
Building work cannot proceed until the trunk main, now three metres from their back door, is moved to the required six metres from the proposed extension.
The Raffertys have had to halt plans to build a downstairs bedroom and bathroom for their daughter Marie-Therese (10), who suffers from the neurological disorder Rett syndrome.
The family believe the Water Service lost track of the pipe and allowed houses on their street to be built too close to the pipe.
A letter from the Water Service dated April 24 says: "I have been informed by a colleague with local knowledge that our record of the location of the main is incorrect."
The family have drawn up a petition to demand that the Water Board pay for the pipe to be moved.
Last Thursday, Mrs Rafferty and her son Colm (16), niece Deborah Lynch and sister-in-law Bernie Brennan collected more than 1,500 names for the petition at the King Street taxi rank between 4pm and 7pm.
Colm and his brother Francis (12) helped their mother get 800 signatures at the Westwood shopping centre last Friday. Mrs Rafferty said: "People were trying to give money but we are not raising funds. This is to try to fight as best as we can by getting as many signatures for the petition as possible."
Mr Rafferty works at a brewery. Mrs Rafferty works part-time at Musgrave Hospital as well as caring for Marie-Therese. The couple said their daughter could not walk or talk or feed herself and needed constant attention.
The family have more than 4,500 signatures and intend to collect more before presenting the petition to the Department for Regional Development, which is in charge of the Water Service.
Mrs Rafferty said: "These are all adult ratepayers who have signed this petition and they want to know if we can't pay to move this pipe then what are we paying our money for?
"It's a disgrace in this day and age that, with a child with a disability, it comes down to money before you can do anything to get better way of life."
A Water Service representative said: "Water Service recommends that a property should be located six metres away from a pipe to allow access for repairs. Water Service strives to be flexible and will look at individual circumstances to see if a positive outcome can be reached for requests to build near pipes.
"Water Service has sympathy with this particular case but is obligated to spend public funds carefully and is not in a position to bear the cost of diverting the mains water."