Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
The transfer of responsibility for water from the local authorities to Irish Water has created many problems. As a public representative, I find the process of reporting issues cumbersome and frustrating. I can imagine, therefore, that it would try the patience of an ordinary citizen. When a problem is reported to Irish Water it utilises the water services staff and equipment of Dublin City Council and other councils. If I were to go directly to the council to report an issue, I would be told to contact Irish Water first, which is a ridiculous situation.
While there is a dedicated elected representative support email address, in my experience the system does not necessarily address the issues any quicker. My constituency colleagues and I have had to pursue issues to the point of exasperation, sending email after email to the Irish Water representative's address to try to get the problems we have raised resolved. I have found that many of the responses I receive show a lack of understanding of the problem raised and are often inaccurate. This method of raising issues with Irish Water is nothing more than a sop to public representatives. Lack of effective communication and an inability to liaise directly with senior management raise concerns in respect of both transparency and accountability.
Elderly residents, families with small children and people with disabilities or long-term illnesses and so on are severely affected by any disruption to their water supply. It is essential, therefore, that the customer service side of Irish Water is effective and public representatives have access to senior management.
I am also concerned that works carried out by Irish Water have caused secondary problems, such as airlocks and low water pressure. On McKee Avenue in Finglas last Saturday, after Irish Water had completed works in the area, residents, including a number of elderly people, were left without a water supply all weekend and all day Monday up until this morning. It appears that no advance notice was given of the works taking place. In St. Canice's Court in Finglas, residents were also left with disrupted water supply following works carried out by Irish Water. The issues around water pressure are still ongoing. When these problems are raised with Irish Water, I find that it effectively abdicates responsibility and in many cases puts the onus on the homeowner affected to rectify the problem.
One such example relates to a case in which the roots of a tree have penetrated a sewage pipe, causing a blockage. The affected pipe is located outside the boundaries of a private residence on Collins Avenue Extension. However, Irish Water is of the view that it is the responsibility of the homeowner to fix the problem. It is not an isolated case. In this and other cases, it is clear that Irish Water is not undertaking proper investigations that would lead it to a different conclusion as to who has responsibility for fixing such problems.
Irish Water also needs to look at the policy of patching up of work areas after initial completion. In many instances, the patching up of roads and pathways has left them in a terrible condition for months on end before they are properly reinstated. I am concerned about the proposal to transfer responsibility for Dublin City Council's drainage section to Irish Water in July. It is a serious worry in light of Irish Water's failures to date. It needs to get its house in order before it should even consider taking on this responsibility.