Frozen pipes bill hits €540,000 and still growing

THE icy weather, from the end of November until almost the New Year, has left Offaly County Council facing bills of over half a million and euro and still counting.

THE icy weather, from the end of November until almost the New Year, has left Offaly County Council facing bills of over half a million and euro and still counting.

By Grace O'Dea

Tom Shanahan, Senior Engineer gave a break down of preliminary costs as a result of the freezing conditions to Council members on Monday.

€300,000 was spent on direct costs and repairs and response, €70,000 on increased water production, €50,000 for further repairs and between €50,000 and €70,000 on repairs to waste water treatment works.

A full survey is underway and results should be known in between two to three weeks.

"Freezing temperatures were below zero for nine consecutive days," said Mr Shanahan. He said that water production had increased from 28.5 cubic metres up to December first to 31 cubic metres up to the present. "At the peak of the problem, production went to 38 cubic metres."

Mr Shanahan explained that with the thaw predicted for December 23, contractors were asked to be on standby on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He said major leakages occurred on St Stephen's Day.

One of the areas in which the council was most criticised was the lack of communication. "An emergency call centre in Kildare was taking calls, but got 1,600 over two days. We responded to between 30% and 40% of calls. We updated our website daily," he said.

Mr Shanahan informed members that 7,700 man hours were worked during this time.

Cllr Tony McLoughlin asked about the depths of stopcocks and water metres, which caused problems for many. He asked had builders not complied with guidelines in these cases. Mr Shanahan said they should be at a depth of 600 millimetres, but added that even some that were laid to the correct measurement still took up to ten days to defrost. He added however that there was an issue with enforcement.

Director of Services Sean Murray complemented Mr Shanahan and his staff for many of whom "Christmas and New Years didn't exist."

He said the penetration of frost was something he, as someone involved with water for over thirty years, had never experienced before. He said the type of stopcocks and the way there were installed will be looked at. "Let's learn from this experience," he said.

"It was a job well done. It also concentrated people's minds on water conservation. It takes 8 litres to fill a cistern and 80 litres to fill a bath," said Cllr Sinead Dooley.