Residents ‘furious’ over five-month stand-off with Irish Water

Homeowners say they should not have to repair damaged pipes outside their property

Mary Lynch on the road outside her home at Elm Mount Rise, Beaumont, with Joanne Lyons, Mary O’Farrell, Paul Goodson, Ben Mac Lochlainn and Herbie Farrell. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Mary Lynch on the road outside her home at Elm Mount Rise, Beaumont, with Joanne Lyons, Mary O’Farrell, Paul Goodson, Ben Mac Lochlainn and Herbie Farrell. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Residents in north Dublin say they are “stressed and furious” amid a five-month stand-off with Irish Water over who should repair damaged sewage pipes.

They say the pipes are blocking about once a fortnight causing a backlog of sewage and foul odours.

While Irish Water insists waste pipes, serving a terrace of houses at Elm Mount Rise, Beaumont, are the responsibility of the homeowners, the residents say the pipes are damaged at points well outside their properties and they should not have to repair them.

A private drain company has quoted the residents between €25,000 and €30,000 to repair or replace the pipes, a job that would involve digging up the road outside their homes.

They describe this as “a completely unreasonable expense”, adding they would “not know where to start” in terms of getting permission to open the road and disrupt local traffic. They believe in the past, before Irish Water existed, the local authority would have repaired or replaced the pipes “without question”.

Worst affected is Mary Lynch, a widow recovering from her third stroke. At the end of the terrace, and the last on the wastepipe-line, her house is the first that experiences the blockages.

She has kept a careful diary of her attempts since October 2017 to have the issue resolved. A private drain company flushed out the pipes twice in October and twice again in November, at a cost of €85 per visit. All residents on the terrace have contributed to the costs.

Irish Water inspected the pipes twice in November, once using a video-scope in the pipes. Though residents asked for a copy of the findings, they say Irish Water wouldn’t share it with them.

Damage to pipes

The residents paid a private company €400 to carry out a drain-diagnostic study, with a video report. It found damage to the waste pipes at 27 separate points between 0.82 metres and 48.75 metres from Ms Lynch’s house. Among the points at which damage was found was at the corner of the footpath outside her home, under the road and across the road.

“If someone fell across the road would I be responsible for that?” asks Ms Lynch. “Of course not. Why should I be responsible for pipes across the road?”

In January and February Irish Water workers have inspected the drains a number of times. “They keep saying the drains are all clear at their end. It’s a nightmare. There are nights I cannot sleep with the stress, worrying about how this is going to be fixed,” says Ms Lynch.

Neighbour Herbie Farrelly says his house has been “OK, but it will affect us and it is affecting us because it’s costing us. You wouldn’t mind if it happened once or twice, but the pipes keep blocking and they’ll only get worse. And you’d be reluctant to pay €25,000”.

Ben MacLochlain, also a neighbour, believes Irish Water “doesn’t want to set a precedent by fixing pipes outside houses. In the days before Irish Water the council would have been out in hours to fix this without question”.

Oireachtas committee

The question of whether damaged pipes some distance outside people’s homes were Irish Water’s responsibility or homeowners’ was raised at the Oireachtas Housing and Local Government committee by Solidarity TD, Mick Barry, earlier this month. Irish Water chief executive Jerry Grant described anywhere, including the public footpath and beyond, as the “public realm”.

He said legally Irish Water was not responsible for a household’s private pipes until they connected with the pubic sewer. “However, we have given instructions that in the public realm all such problems will be repaired by Irish Water and our local authority partners... It’s not reasonable residents should have to dig holes in the public realm to deal with a private drain.”

Ms Lynch and her neighbours describe their experience with the utility as an “awakening”.

“We’re stressed and furious at this stage,” says Mr MacLochlain. “The people we thought would help us have just been passing the parcel.”

A spokeswoman said Irish Water “acknowledges this is very distressing for customers... IW has carried out extensive investigations and surveys into the issues at Elm Mount Rise and have confirmed the issue is in a private drain. We have engaged a contractor to resolve the issue and we will liaise with the local authority if a road opening licence is required”.