Northern Ireland Water said it had around 100 staff on duty during the night of the storms last week in response to questions raised over its operations.
A resident in one of the areas worst affected by flooding queried why a major emergency was not declared as the scale of the destruction became apparent. The man, who wished to remain anonymous but who described himself as a “very concerned and disgusted local resident,” said water mains were damaged, affecting the Drumahoe area, including the main feed to Altnagelvin Hospital.
He claimed NI Water “have since had figures on the ground but it’s an absolute disgrace that they weren’t there when they were needed most.”.
“There was water coming in the front doors of people’s homes and going out the back,” he said. “They could have been issuing sandbags or helped ferry people to the YMCA. An alternative feed at Altnagelvin Hospital was put into action, but what if that had failed? It doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened.”
A spokesperson for NI Water responded: “Approximately 100 NI Water staff were on duty throughout the night of August 22 as part of a co-ordinated multi-agency response to the incident. As is the case in all such major incidents the primary focus of NI Water personnel is working to protect their assets and mitigate against disruption to water and waste water services. This involved dealing with flooding at a number of water and waste water assets and damage to several sections of water mains which had been swept away by the force of the flood water.”
The spokesperson said that after the weather warning was received on Tuesday, NI Water directed its wastewater operations teams to attend previous flooding hotspots and priority assets “in anticipation of disruption,” while staff and contractors were also on standby and deployed as required.
“A Category 2 incident was immediately established through the night and has been in place thereafter,” she said. “NI Water’s primary task in this incident was to work to ensure continued supply to customers, and to that end, burst mains were repaired and rezoning took place as required – this proved necessary in order to ensure a continued supply to Altnagelvin Area Hospital; the rezoning exercise was a success, with the hospital retaining a constant supply..
She added that all customers who experienced a loss of water supply have now seen supply restored and that NI Water was taking part in the ongoing clean-up operations.