Belfast Telegraph

Residents rally round as water misery continues

by Natalie Gorman

The water crisis continues in east Belfast as a number of residents continue to live with no hot running water and two schools — Bloomfield Collegiate and Park School on the Ravenhill Road — were unable to open for the start of term because of burst pipes.

Maggie Hutton, who was involved in the relief effort, said: “Only yesterday [Tuesday], a disabled woman living in the local area called us to say she was still without hot running water — she has had serious problems with her supply since December 23.

“I must say, those able-bodied in the local community really rose to the crisis when it was at its worst and a lot of people drove their cars to centres to collect bottles of water for other people who |couldn’t make the journey.”

Beersbridge Road resident Mrs Agnes Smith has been without heating since a week before Christmas. “I’m disabled and it’s been very hard for me,” she said. “Someone down the street told me yesterday to call the councillor Michael Copeland. I can’t thank him enough; within the day someone came around to finally get the heating back on.”

Mr Copeland said: “The situation is improving, but there are still people living without hot water and no central heating.

“I take no comfort in criticising people working for NI Water — their employees working on the ground really did their best. However, above them is a level of people extremely well paid under the direct control of Department for Regional Development and the Executive — their failures have been of enormous proportions.

“It’s very easy to get focused on water charges — the only thing that could have prevented this crisis was if pipes that carry the water were of sufficient quality, lagged and installed deep enough.”

Robin Newton, DUP MLA, said: “Getting over the current crisis is the main concern. But ensuring we learn the lessons of this calamity and are able to handle any future emergencies in a more efficient and controlled manner must be embarked on as a priority. It is patently obvious that NI Water cannot continue to operate in the same format or under the same governance rules that have resulted in such a shambles.”

Alliance councillor Laura McNamee said: “There needs to be an urgent inquiry into what went wrong both in terms of people losing water but also what went wrong in NI Water.”

PUP leader Brian Ervine added: “Conor Murphy made some poor decisions when deciding to change the board of NI Water and he must own up to his mistakes. It's clear that a board of directors containing no-one with experience of managing a national water company is never going to be fully prepared for this type of eventuality.”

As of yesterday, water provided by Asda will be distributed through Avoniel Leisure Centre.

Belfast Telegraph


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