Shallow pipes contribute to Christmas nightmare freeze

A FROZEN stop cock and shallowly laid pipes saw a family of six without running water for Christmas. For Billy Malone and his family at St Columba's Place, the nightmare seemed unending.

A FROZEN stop cock and shallowly laid pipes saw a family of six without running water for Christmas. For Billy Malone and his family at St Columba's Place, the nightmare seemed unending.

"Our water was gone for eight days. The stop cock is only around three inches under the ground, and the pipes run under the paths so you would be forever trying to locate the freeze," remarked a very frustrated and annoyed Mr Malone.

This wasn't the first occasion the Malone family endured a prolonged spell without water as Mr Malone explained that his pipes froze last year also, 'a fact the council were aware of and they had promised to rectify the situation'.

"It was pure hardship," said Mr Malone, who has four children ranging in age from 13 years down to two years. His children were sick all over Christmas and the family didn't even have running water to wash their hands after attending to them.

"It takes two and a half litres of water to flush the toilet. It was a nightmare. You never appreciate something until it is gone," he added.

However, Christmas at Malone's was not all doom and gloom and there was some festive cheer in the form of their neighbours, Brendan and Mary Lawlor. "Thank God for good neighbours," he said, after the Lawlors gave the family a hose to use their supply.

Mr Malone also paid tribute to local Councillor Brendan Killeavy. "He is worth every vote. He kept everyone updated. He was struggling himself as his water was gone. He just goes out and does it. He is to be commended."

However, he wasn't as complimentary about Offaly County Council. "They didn't do a lot. Brendan Killeavy on Facebook was the only one keeping people in the loop."

Mr Malone, who purchased his house from the council last year, said they shouldn't have signed off on his house with pipes laid so shallow beneath the ground.

In response Tom Shanahan, Senior Engineer, Water Services with Offaly County Council said that the council could not comment on individual cases.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fin general election candidate Councillor Brian Stanley is calling for developers to pay for the damage where it is clearly caused by shoddy workmanship.

Cllr Stanley said, "While the weather over the past month has been unprecedented, it is clear that much of the problems that have arisen in housing developments with freezing water supply pipes are as a result of proper standards not been adhered to during construction.

"Water mains pipes are supposed to be a minimum of 3 feet under the surface and the individual service pipe to each dwelling a minimum of 2 feet. Many of the houses that have been without water for weeks have service pipes less than 12 inches below ground.

"This is a scandalous situation. People bought houses at exorbitant prices during the boom and now they discover that the water pipe servicing their home hasn't got enough soil covering them. Sinn Fin have had complaints from constituents throughout the Offaly about this. In Chancery Park in Tullamore some of the pipes are only 9 inches below the surface while in St Columba's Place there are water valves only 5 to 6 inches under the manhole cover.

"County Councils also have to be more diligent when taking estates in charge. Rigorous inspections need to be carried out so as to ensure that these basic standards are met.

"Where it's clear that pipes are not down the required distance, developers should have to rectify the problem prior to the council taking over estates. If there are burst water mains in estates due to this problem, the developers bond should be used to remedy it."