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Anger as Bantrys businesses left without water for second time

October 12th, 2015 7:20 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Trish Messom at The Stuffed Olive in Bantry on Tuesday, working through some of the dirty pots that built up the day before, when she was forced to close due to the latest water mains break in the town. (Photo: Tony McElhinney)

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A NUMBER of businesses in Bantry were left without water on Monday after a mains break forced them to close for the day – for the second time in six months.

Irish Water has now requested Cork County Council to undertake an investigation into the breakage, on its behalf.

Popular local restaurants, such as The Stuffed Olive, The Bakehouse, DeBarra’s and Floury Hands – to mention but a few – had no choice but to close after the water mains break on Barrack Street.

Trish Messom, who owns The Stuffed Olive, confirmed that the incident happened at 7am that morning and within a matter of minutes they were completely without water.

‘It is the second time in six months that this break has happened at Barrack Street,’ said Trish, who expressed her frustration with Irish Water’s failure to adequately resolve the situation.

‘The first thing to be switched off shortly after 7am were the coffee machines,’ said Trish, ‘because without water circulating through them these very expensive machines could have been damaged.

‘We had no water to prepare food, or even continue the dishes we had already started. There wasn’t even enough water to allow our staff wash their hands and there was no way we could keep the doors open because the toilet facilities were out of action.’

Trish said she contacted Irish Water at 9.15am to get an update: ‘I presumed they knew about it but they weren’t aware of it at all. The County Council were – so there must have been a miscommunication between them. 

‘However, when Irish Water rechecked their system,’ she said, ‘they confirmed that there was a break and that the repair would be completed by 5pm. And it was.’

In the meantime, a lot of the town was left without water and Irish Water posted a notice on their website saying that the mains break would cause a disruption to supply in Barrack Street, Main Street, High Street, Bridge Street, Market Street and surrounding areas.

As Monday is a traditional closed day for hairdressers and some beauty salons, had they been open they, too, would have suffered financially.

When the water returned that night, The Stuffed Office was forced to employ additional staff to clean up from the morning. ‘This was an additional cost and inconvenience,’ said Trish, who said she was not looking to be compensated but, as a businessperson who hands over €500 a year to Irish Water, she did broach the subject with the person on the other end of the line.

‘I was told that Irish Water would not reimburse us for this, or give us any leeway when it comes to paying our water bills, but it is frustrating that this is the second time there has been a break on Barrack Street in the last six months, and I can see that it will happen again and again until the problem is fixed once and for all.’

Michael O’Shea, who runs Mossie’s Cabs at Wolfe Tone Square was equally annoyed. He said: ‘Nothing is being done about it. The pipe network in Bantry is a complete disgrace and every time the road is dug up, it’s put back badly.’

A promised replacement of 4km of watermains in the town, including the replacement of 850m of pipes in Reenrour East Housing Estate, has not yet happened.

In June, when the deadline had passed, Cllr Michael Collins (Ind) suggested that the people of Bantry should not pay their water bills.

He said: ‘The entire area should be declared bill-free. The people of Bantry are not getting an adequate service and should be bill-free until the problem is sorted.’

The councillor said continual breakages in the water supply, deplorable water quality in some areas, and a ‘moonscape’ road surface that cannot be repaired until the town’s water supply scheme is installed, were all good reasons why people shouldn’t pay. 

In a statement, Irish Water admitted the area ‘has been subject to a number of bursts in recent months’.

It added that Cork County Council, on behalf of Irish Water, is currently carrying out an investigation of the issues and, once fully investigated, Irish Water ‘hopes to provide a long-term solution to address the issues’.

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